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Daily Alert: Mideast News and Views

Daily Alert: Mideast News and Views

I've always been an international news-enthusiast (some may say junkie - when cleaning up my childhood room a few months ago, I found articles clipped from New York Times and Wall Street Journal that had fascinated me over the years). I have continued to enjoy keeping my finger on the pulse of the world, especially the Middle East.

Navigating the morass of information available both in print and on the internet can be daunting, but I am a firm believer in synthesizing multiple perspectives and sources. Toward this aim, I subscribe to the Daily Alert, distributed by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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The Conference of Presidents is a central coordinating body for the American Jewish community, representing 52 national Jewish agencies from across political and religious spectra, including the Union for Reform Judaism.

Arriving at my inbox around 7am EST each morning, the Daily Alert is a digest compiled from a broad range of respected news sources. To all those interested in keeping abreast with the latest on Israel, Iran, and issues of importance to the world Jewish community, I recommend subscribing to the Daily Alert. Below are some of the headlines and news summaries from today's Daily Alert - I highly recommend signing up. And if you want to talk Mideast news and politics, drop me an email!



DAILY ALERT

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Iran to Build Enrichment Sites Inside Mountains - Ali Akbar Dareini
Iran
said Monday it plans to build two new uranium enrichment facilities deep inside
mountains to protect them from attack. Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi
said Tehran intends to use
its more advanced centrifuges at the new sites, which will be able to enrich
uranium much faster than the old ones. This means Iran
could amass more material in a shorter space of time that could be turned into
the fissile core of missiles.
    Salehi said the new enrichment sites will be equal to that of
Natanz in terms of production capacity but smaller in geographical size. More
than 8,600 centrifuges have been set up in Natanz, but only about 3,800 are
actively enriching uranium, according to the International Atomic Energy
Agency. The facility will eventually house 54,000 centrifuges. (AP-Washington
Post
)


    See also U.S.: Iran Plan Is Further Evidence It Rejects
Engagement

The U.S. said Monday that Iran's plan to build two new uranium enrichment
plants is "further evidence" it rejects engagement with the
international community. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley added that
the U.S.
and other powers were reviewing Iranian targets for sanctions and Washington
would offer specific proposals to the UN in the coming weeks. President Obama's
administration has increasingly turned its attention to sanctions after its
first-year bid to engage Iran
in talks over its nuclear program yielded nothing concrete. U.S. officials say Iran's
behavior shows it does not want to cooperate with the world community. (AFP)


Gen. Mullen: Iran Concerns Middle Eastern Neighbors - Donna Miles
Just back from a trip to the Middle East, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, on Monday cited widespread concern about Iran's nuclear
program, but emphasized the importance of diplomatic and economic pressure,
rather than military action, to stem it. Mullen cited concern about Iran as an overarching
theme during his recent visit to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
All share the U.S.
belief that Iran's
nuclear program is headed on a path to achieve weaponization - a pursuit Mullen
said further destabilizes the region.
    "Like us, it isn't just a nuclear-capable Iranian military
our friends worry about," he said. "It's an Iran
with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors. This outcome
drives many of the national security decisions our partners there are making,
and I believe we must be mindful of that as we look to the future, post-Iraq
and post-Afghanistan."  (American Forces Press Service-U.S.
Defense Department
)

Archaeologist
Finds Jerusalem Wall Matching Biblical Story
- Nir Hasson
A team of Israeli archaeologists has announced the discovery of a massive wall
they say dates to the 10th century BCE in Jerusalem's
Ophel
Park
on the slope between the Temple
Mount
and the village of Silwan. The
dig director, Dr. Eilat Mazar, dates the wall according to potshards found
nearby to the period of King Solomon and the major period of construction in Jerusalem in the First Temple
period, as described in the Bible. The dig is a joint project by the Hebrew University,
the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
    Along with the wall, which is 10 meters high and 70 meters long,
other structures were found, including a monumental gatehouse and a tower.
"This is the first time a structure has been found that could conform to
descriptions of King Solomon's construction in Jerusalem,"
Mazar says. (Ha'aretz)


    See also Tenth Century BCE Jerusalem City Wall Uncovered
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    See also Photos of the Wall (Hebrew
University of Jerusalem-Facebook
)

Iran at History's Fork in the Road - Richard N. Haass
One future for Iran
would be mostly an extension of what already exists, i.e., an Iran
run by conservative clerics and an aggressive Revolutionary Guard. The
emergence of such a future would present the world with a stark choice: either
acquiesce to an Iran
that possesses or could quickly assemble a nuclear device, or launch a
preventive military attack designed to destroy much of the Iranian nuclear
program.
    While a preventive strike would delay Iran's
nuclear efforts, it would not stop the regime from rebuilding, and it might
also create conditions that cause problems for the regime's domestic opponents.
Despite these potential drawbacks, an armed attack on Iran's nuclear facilities
will and should remain a distinct possibility given the enormous strategic
costs of a nuclear-armed Iran.
    If history is a guide, even strong sanctions may not be enough to
persuade Iran's
rulers to negotiate constructively and accept meaningful constraints on their
nuclear activities. These considerations raise the prospect of trying to bring
about an alternative future: an Iran
with a political leadership that is more moderate at home and abroad, and that
forgoes developing a nuclear weapon or anything close to it. The writer is
president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Korea
Times
)

The Best of the Bad Options on Iran - Leslie H. Gelb
No one has a magic bullet for the Iran
puzzle. What can be done is to work very closely with our Arab friends in the
Gulf to strengthen them in the face of increasing Iranian pressure. This would
include efforts to bolster the legitimacy of friendly regional governments plus
very public upgrades of U.S.
capabilities to defend them, as the Obama administration is doing with missile
defenses. It also means proceeding with sanctions against the Revolutionary
Guard. It entails continuing to try to sabotage Iran's
uranium-enrichment and other nuclear programs as well. Finally, it also means
preserving present negotiating proposals, but not pushing them. The writer
is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Daily Beast)


The Case for Gasoline Sanctions on Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark
Dubowitz (Wall Street Journal)

  • Are gasoline sanctions against Iran
    a bad idea? The White House worries that without plentiful petrol,
    Iranians might grow angry and rally around the regime.
  • Sanctions hitting the energy sector could also be
    viewed by Tehran as
    outright war. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could counter in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    And to make these sanctions effective, Washington
    might need to coerce our European allies, whose companies have the lion's
    share of the gasoline import and import-related insurance business.
    (Without insurance, tankers never leave harbor.)
  • For sanctions to be a game changer, they have to be
    crushing. And sanctions must complement the only thing that has so far
    rattled the regime: the pro-democracy Green Movement. Gasoline and
    insurance sanctions tied to the cause of democracy might - just possibly -
    work.
  • Iranians who are fed up with theocracy are certainly
    not going to embrace it if Obama declares gasoline sanctions the midwife
    of representative government. If sanctions are waged in the name of the
    Iranian people, we are much more likely to see Western opinion remain
    solidly behind them.

Published: 2/23/2010

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