Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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DAILY ALERT

February 19, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Iraq Scientist Says Saddam Hiding Arms Underground - Ruben Alabastro (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Hussain Al Shahristani, former chief scientific advisor to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, said on Tuesday in Manila that Saddam Hussein had dismantled his nuclear program but was making chemical and biological weapons that were hidden deep underground beyond the eyes of UN inspectors.
    "The program to produce chemical and biological weapons continued even during the years when the inspectors were in Iraq in the 1990s," he said.
    "There's no way that they can really find them, unless by pure accident," he said. "These materials are hidden deep underground or in a tunnel system." Shahristani said his information came from former colleagues and dissidents who had recently fled the country.
    Shahristani said he believed Saddam planned to make his last stand in Baghdad and use the capital's four million residents as human shields. "There has even been discussion within his circle to set up what they call a chemical belt around Baghdad using his chemical weapons to entrap the residents of Baghdad inside," he said.
    "Based on contacts that we are having with the people inside Iraq, who are talking with the military all the time, the general understanding of the population now is that the army is not going to fight," he said.
    Reports that Saddam had look-alikes to confuse potential assassins were "absolutely true," Shahristani said. "I have seen them," he said. "There are usually between four and eight convoys that leave the palace through different doors - identical convoys of black Mercedes - each of them having one who looks like Saddam. They leave in different directions."


Iraqi Defense Minister Under House Arrest - Luke Harding (Guardian-UK)
    Saddam Hussein is reported to have placed his defense minister and close relative under house arrest in an extraordinary move apparently designed to prevent a coup.
    Iraqi opposition newspapers, citing sources in Baghdad, claimed Monday that the head of the Iraqi military, Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai, was now effectively a prisoner in his home.


N. Korean Scud Ship Delivers German Chemical Weapons Material - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    The North Korean ship that last year delivered Scud missiles to Yemen transferred a large shipment of chemical weapons material from Germany to North Korea recently, U.S. intelligence officials said.
    The ship, the Sosan, was monitored as it arrived in North Korea earlier this month from Germany carrying a shipment of sodium cyanide, a precursor chemical used in making the nerve gas sarin


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Saudis Warn U.S. over Iraq War
    Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said any unilateral military action by the U.S. would appear as an "act of aggression." "If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems," Prince Saud said. "Our worry is the new emerging fundamentalism in the U.S. and in the West. Fundamentalism in our region is on the wane. There, it's in the ascendancy. That's the threat." (BBC)
  • Three Mystery Ships Tracked over Suspected Weapons Cargo - Michael Harrison
    Three giant cargo ships are being tracked by U.S. and British intelligence on suspicion that they might be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The ships have been sailing around the world's oceans for the past three months while maintaining radio silence, say authoritative shipping industry sources. (Independent-UK)
  • Turkey Demands $32 Billion U.S. Aid - Dexter Filkins with Eric Schmitt
    The Turks said they were waiting for the Bush administration to answer their demand for an economic aid package worth as much as $32 billion to ensure their participation in a war with Iraq. Washington has offered $26 billion. (New York Times)
        See also Bush Losing Patience with Turkey's Growing Demands (London Times)
  • Iranian-Backed Forces Cross into Iraq - Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Guy Dinmore
    Up to 5,000 Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition forces have crossed into northern Iraq from Iran with the aim of securing the frontier in the event of war, according to senior Iranian officials. The forces, with some heavy equipment, are nominally under the command of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a prominent Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader based in Iran since 1980. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Gallup Poll: Sympathy with Israel Highest since Gulf War - Jeffrey M. Jones
    The percentage that rates Israel "very favorably" is the highest it has been since 1991. Additionally, the level of expressed sympathy for the Israelis, as opposed to the Palestinians, is also the highest since 1991. Conservatives and Republicans, typically among the most supportive of Israel, show even stronger support now than in 2002. The poll, conducted Feb. 3-6, shows Israel's favorable rating is at 64%, up from 58% last year. 22% of Americans rate Israel "very favorably," 6 points higher than last year. 58% of Americans say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis than the Palestinian Arabs, while 13% say they have more sympathy toward the Palestinians. (Gallup)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israel Moves Against Hamas
    Israeli tanks and soldiers battled Palestinian gunmen Wednesday in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, a known stronghold of Hamas and Islamic Jihad forces. Palestinians reported 11 dead, including a suicide bomber who tried to blow up a tank. There were no Israeli casualties. Soldiers blew up four workshops used for manufacturing weapons, the IDF reported. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
        "The IDF activity was conducted for the purpose of halting continuous Palestinian attacks against Israelis inside and outside the Gaza Strip. We have seen a marked increase in these attempts recently and Israel is determined to stop this terror before Israeli citizens in the area are hurt," David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
        Since Sunday, eight Hamas commanders have been killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, all members of the Hamas military wing, Izzadin Kassam. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Arafat's Forces Said to Move against Hamas - Dan Ephron
    Hundreds of Palestinians harmed by repeated Israeli incursions into Gaza, often in response to Hamas rocket attacks, had appealed in writing and in person to security authorities to take action against Hamas, Palestinians said. (Boston Globe)
  • Netanyahu: Arafat Must be Treated like Saddam
    In order for the U.S. to win its war on terrorism, the same standard Saddam Hussein is being held to must be used to remove Yasser Arafat, Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. Speaking in Jerusalem to a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu said Israel's guiding principle, and the principle guiding the U.S. in its campaign against Iraq, is "no tolerance for terror and no tolerance for regimes that spawn terror." "If you want to stop terrorism," he said, "you have to take out those regimes and defeat this ideology." A Palestinian regime change is needed so that the notion of deterrence - of having something to lose - could be instilled in the new regime, he said.
        Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, told the conference the type of prime minister Arafat seems intent on appointing constitutes anything but regime change. Weisglass said Arafat seems to see a new prime minister as a symbolic role under the president, similar to the French or Russian model. "As long as Arafat holds his position," Weisglass said, "nothing will happen." Weisglass said a key problem Israel has with the Quartet's road map is that although it is clearly performance-based, the Quartet itself will determine when one side has fulfilled its obligations under the plan. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Isser Harel Dies at 91 - Alexander Zvielli and Margot Dudkevitch
    Isser Harel, former head of the Mossad and Shin Bet, and the man responsible for the capture of Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, died Tuesday in Petah Tikva. Appointed head of the Mossad (The Central Institute for Intelligence and Security) in 1952 by prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Harel's determination and endless energy turned it into one of the finest espionage organizations in the world. Born in Vitebsk, Russia, in 1912, Harel (Halperin) immigrated to Palestine in 1931. An agricultural worker and one of the founders of Kibbutz Shefayim, he joined the Hagana in 1942, serving as a policeman until becoming head of Hagana intelligence in 1944. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Toxic Talk on War - Lawrence F. Kaplan
    Who is driving this rush to war in Iraq? A decade ago Pat Buchanan alleged that Israel and its "amen corner" were to blame. Now Buchanan has revived the claim, only this time a chorus of voices has emerged to echo it. Georgie Anne Geyer writes how "the fanatic neoconservatives around the administration, the rabid Israel supporters in the White House and the Pentagon," plan to wage war in Iraq and then to "democratize the entire Middle East, including Syria and Saudi Arabia, if necessary by military means, in order to secure Ariel Sharon's Israel." Ian Buruma has managed to locate the reasons for a U.S. war against Iraq in, among other places, "Jewish-American hysteria." Robert Novak has described the U.S conflict with Iraq as "Sharon's war." Former senator Gary Hart has said that we "must not let our role in the world be dictated by Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests." (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Now Views Iran in More Favorable Light - Robin Wright
    Despite growing concern about the regime's suspected nuclear weapons program, Iran's assistance in the war on terrorism and the gradual evolution of liberal thought there puts it in a different category from Iraq or North Korea, said Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. The deepening U.S. involvement on all of Iran's borders - in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Central Asia, along the Persian Gulf, and now in Turkey and Iraq - has nudged the two countries into increasingly frequent discussions since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to U.S. officials. Yet Iran's announcement last week of plans to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and to mine uranium "clearly indicate Iran's intention to build the infrastructure for a nuclear weapons capability," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Talking Points:

    Constructing Jerusalem's Security Wall (AP/Guardian-UK)

    • Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial site of the biblical matriarch, is on the northern edge of Bethlehem, less than 500 yards from the Jerusalem city limits. Israel retained control over the holy site after it withdrew from Bethlehem in 1995, as part of interim peace agreements. In the past 29 months of fighting, Palestinian gunmen have frequently shot at soldiers guarding the site, and Jewish worshipers must currently travel there by armored bus.
    • After several suicide bombers from Bethlehem carried out terror attacks in Jerusalem killing dozens of people, Israel's security Cabinet approved the construction of a series of barriers around the city intended to keep out Palestinian terrorists.
    • Palestinians living near Jerusalem's southern edge have received notices that the IDF is taking over 3 1/2 acres (14 dunams) for the construction of the security wall. Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser said about two dozen homes are affected. Financial Times reports that 35 mainly Palestinian Christian households are involved. Israel is offering compensation for the land in the wall's path.
    • Israeli army Col. Jamal Salman told local residents Tuesday that their homes and businesses would not be harmed, but that after the construction of the wall, they would have to pass through checkpoints to get into Bethlehem.
    • Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israel has no choice but to build the wall to ensure the safety of Jews praying at the tomb. "If Palestinians don't want a wall, they should stop the violence," he said. "Rachel's Tomb has to be protected so it won't be destroyed like other Jewish holy sites under the Palestinian Authority, such as Joseph's Tomb." Gissin said the wall was not necessarily permanent. "It will exist as long as this security situation exists. If there is a different security situation...then we can consider another solution,'' he said.
        See also (New York Times), (AP/Ha'aretz), (Financial Times), (Jerusalem Post)


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