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August 26, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Iraq Accuses Syria of Harboring Baghdad Bombing Masterminds - Mohammed Abbas (Reuters)
    Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors on Tuesday after Baghdad demanded Damascus hand over two people it says masterminded bombings in the Iraqi capital last week which killed almost 100 people.
    Iraq's government has blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party for massive truck bombs and other attacks last Wednesday, and says it has already captured some suspects responsible.
    In a tape aired on Sunday, one man captured said he acted under orders from a man in Syria called Sattam Farhan, a member of a wing of the Baath party headed by Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed.
    "The cabinet requests (that Syria) hand over Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed and Sattam Farhan for their direct role in Wednesday's terrorist act," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
    Dabbagh said the Foreign Ministry would ask Syria "to banish the terrorist organizations that use Syria as a base from which to carry out terrorist acts against the Iraqi nation."

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Philippines Arrests Terrorist Who Planned Attack on Israel Embassy (Reuters)
    The Philippines said Tuesday it had eradicated a group of Muslim militants with links to the notorious Abu Sayyaf rebels after the arrest of its top leader suspected to be part of a 2006 plot to bomb Western embassies.
    Dinno-Amor Pareja, 28, also known as Khalil and Abu Jihad, was arrested in Mindanao on Friday.
    Pareja helped plan attacks on the embassies of the UK, U.S., and Israel in Manila and during the meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations in the Philippines in 2006.
    Security forces foiled the plots after 600 kg. of explosives were seized in Manila, but they failed to arrest Pareja who sought refuge in Muslim rebel bases in Mindanao.

Palestine TV Boss Fired for Insufficient Coverage of Prime Minister - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The director of Palestine TV, Muhammad Dahoudi, has been fired by Yasser Abed Rabbo for failing to give enough coverage to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Palestinian journalists said on Tuesday.
    Journalists in the West Bank accused Abed Rabbo of sending armed thugs to Palestine TV to prevent the sacked director from entering the compound.
    A source in Palestine TV said that Dahoudi and news editors have long been under heavy pressure from Abed Rabbo to devote much of the news bulletins to Fayyad's activities and statements.
    A senior Fatah official told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Abed Rabbo lost his temper last week when Palestine TV failed to dispatch a crew to film Fayyad at a ceremony to inaugurate a village water project.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., EU Press IAEA on Evidence of Iran Nukes - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    The Obama administration and its European allies are pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to make public evidence that they believe points toward an Iranian drive to gain the ability to build a nuclear weapon, part of a broad effort to build a case for far more punishing sanctions against the country. The administration's push for an open discussion of Iran's suspected weapons program, and for tougher sanctions, reflects growing pessimism about efforts to engage with the country's leaders. Administration officials said that there had been no communications of substance from the Iranian leadership since the presidential election in June. IAEA officials say that Mohamed ElBaradei, the departing director general, has resisted a public airing, fearing that this would make the agency appear biased toward the West. (New York Times)
        See also The Iran Countdown - Michael Crowley
    White House officials are all but resigned to the futility of direct diplomacy with Iran. Former State Department official Nicholas Burns predicts that "even if negotiations are held this autumn, they will fail." And if that happens, administration officials say, Obama will have little choice but to start to clench his own fist. That means turning the screws on Tehran through what Hillary Clinton has vowed will be "crippling sanctions." In Congress, a bill imposing penalties on companies that export refined petroleum to Iran already has 72 Senate co-sponsors and 294 in the House. Congressional leaders are just waiting for a green light from the White House before they proceed. (New York Magazine)
  • Iranian Enrichment Capacity Reaches Plateau - Sylvia Westall and Mark Heinrich
    Iran has not expanded the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at its Natanz nuclear site since the end of May after increasing capacity steadily over the previous three years, diplomats said. However, some diplomats and analysts said the slowed enrichment growth was more likely a technical than a political issue. UN inspectors reported on May 31 that Iran had just under 5,000 centrifuges refining uranium. However, the number that have been installed, though not yet brought on stream, has risen from around 2,100 in May, diplomats said. These could be added to production lines within a few weeks, if desired, according to nuclear analysts. "Once they're installed, it only takes a few weeks to test-run them under vacuum before they're ready to enrich," said David Albright, head of Washington's Institute for Science and International Security which tracks nuclear proliferation. (Reuters)
        See also The West Struggles with Iran's Game - Roula Khalaf
    What we may be witnessing is a fresh Iranian effort to buy time on the nuclear front while its leaders try to put their house in order. For years Iran has cleverly played the nuclear game, failing to heed international demands but providing just enough hints of co-operation to persuade Russia and China to block crippling measures at the UN Security Council. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Iran Puts More Senior Reformers on Trial - Reza Derakhshi and Fredrik Dahl
    Iran put several leading reformers in the dock on Tuesday in its fourth mass trial of people accused of fomenting unrest after June's disputed presidential election. Those tried in a Revolutionary Court included former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, and former Deputy Intelligence Minister Saaed Hajjarian. (Reuters)
  • Possible Gaddafi Visit Stirs N.J. Town - Mary Beth Sheridan
    Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi reportedly is planning to set up camp in suburban Englewood, N.J., next month on the grounds of a house owned by Libya's UN mission when he visits to address the UN General Assembly. Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.), whose district includes Englewood, said Tuesday that the State Department and the White House had "strongly urged the Libyan government to have Mr. Gaddafi remain only in New York City." American officials were infuriated by the joyful homecoming celebration in Libya last week for the convicted bomber in the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. 38 of the 270 victims of the attack lived in New Jersey. (Washington Post)
        See also "Not In My Backyard" - Steve Lipman
    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author and host of a cable television show, says he woke up one morning two months ago and noticed that eight large trees and a metal fence, which separated his property from his neighbor's, were gone. The residence of the Libyan ambassador to the UN that had been in disrepair for a decade was suddenly being cared for: Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was coming. Boteach is suing the Libyan government for damaging his property, and will sponsor a protest rally at his house, with the participation of local government officials, on Sunday at 11 a.m., saying, "I don't want a terrorist living next door to me." Englewood officials said the Libyan property "was millions of dollars in arrears in property taxes."  (New York Jewish Week)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Says It's Nearing Deal with Israel on Settlements - Barak Ravid
    Israel and the U.S. are closing the gaps over West Bank settlement construction, senior American officials told Ha'aretz on Tuesday. Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet Wednesday with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell in a bid to reach an understanding on the issue. (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Observations: Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Video: Lebanese Villagers Evict Hizbullah Operatives
    Hizbullah operatives were attacked by Lebanese villagers during violent clashes in the village of Marwahin in southern Lebanon on Aug. 23-24. The Hizbullah men sought to store arms in the town, just two km. north of the Israeli border. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Brutality Is at the Heart of Hamas Practice and Ideology - Ron Prosor
    Earlier this month, Hamas launched a devastating bombardment of rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire against a mosque in Rafah, killing at least 22 Palestinians and injuring over 100 more. Yet Hamas' disregard for the sanctity of a house of worship, and its contempt for the lives of neighboring civilians, is unlikely to be the subject of any probing reports from Human Rights Watch. Hamas opened Gaza's floodgates to a tsunami of extremism and the rise of rival Jihadist groups is a problem of Hamas' own making.
        Brutality is at the heart of Hamas practice and ideology, characterizing its actions against both Palestinians and Israelis. Throughout its history Hamas has unleashed waves of indiscriminate terror against any attempt at progress. Yet there are those who argue that Israel and the West must talk to Hamas, implying that it is on the verge of a switch to moderation. As Israel and the Palestinian leadership make continued efforts towards the social and economic progress essential to move forward, Hamas' brutality should serve as a warning to us all. The writer is the Israeli ambassador to Britain. (Telegraph-UK)
  • "Iraq Will Be a Colony of Iran" - David Ignatius
    Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, the head of Iraqi intelligence since 2004, resigned this month because of what he viewed as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouria al-Maliki's attempts to undermine the U.S.-trained Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) and allow Iranian spies to operate freely. Without the backstop of U.S. support, Iraqi authorities are now desperately vulnerable to pressure, especially from neighboring Iran. An early warning was the brazen July 28 robbery of the state-run Rafidain Bank in central Baghdad, apparently by members of an Iraqi security force. Some of the money has been recovered, but the rest is believed to be in Iran, along with some members of the robbery team.
        Since the INIS was formally created in 2004, 290 of its officers have been killed, many targeted by Iranian intelligence operatives. With Shahwani's resignation, the intelligence service is commanded by Gen. Zuheir Fadel. Some of Fadel's key officers are said to be fleeing for safety in Jordan, Egypt and Syria - fearing that they will be targets of Iranian hit teams if they remain in Iraq. A top Iraqi intelligence source, pressed about what his country would look like in five years without American help, answered bluntly: "Iraq will be a colony of Iran."  (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

    After meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

    • "I reiterated Israel's commitment to peace and outlined what I believe is the winning formula for peace: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. We're working hard to advance a peace process that will lead to an actual peace result."
    • "They have to say unequivocally 'it's over.' We are going to make a real peace. It'll be a final peace. It will be a peace that will end all claims to further conflict. It'll be a peace that will resolve the Palestinian refugee issue once and for all."
    • "If we're asked to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation state of the Palestinian people, it is absolutely essential that the Palestinian leadership says to the Palestinian people 'you will have to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.' Recognition is the pivot of peace. The absence of such clear and forthright expressions by the Palestinian leadership of such recognition has been what has been holding peace up and this is what the people of Israel and I think all fair minded people in the world expect."
    • "We are trying to...enable normal life for the Israeli residents in Judea-Samaria [West Bank]. We have about a quarter of a million such people. They lead lives, they have children who have to go to school, they need classrooms, they need kindergartens, and they need to have a place to house their families. This is very different from grabbing land, and I have made it clear that we are not going to build new settlements or expropriate additional land for existing ones. What we are seeking to achieve with the United States in the talks we have to find a bridging formula that will enable...those residents to continue living normal lives."
    • "Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel. We accept no limitations on our sovereignty....Jerusalem is not a settlement....Jerusalem is the united capital of the Jewish people. It has only been around for 3,000 years. We recognize that there are obviously Arab residents in Jerusalem, and they enjoy all the equal rights and all the equal benefits of the Jewish residents."
    • "What has been revealed in the recent dramatic events of the Iranian election is that this regime does not enjoy the support of the Iranian people. It is far weaker than meets the eye, and if the resolve of the responsible members of the international community is strong and firm, then however late the hour, the future can be secured. This is our preference. I think that the stronger those actions and those sanctions are today, the less need there will be for stronger actions tomorrow."

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