Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

March 17, 2003

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info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

No Proof of Scuds in Western Iraq - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    So far, there is no proof the Iraqis have placed Scud missiles in western Iraq, as an American television network claimed. But the aerial action targeting radar stations near the western Iraqi town of Rutbah is unusual. Until now, most U.S. and British air strikes have focused on the Kurdish area in the north and the Shi'ite area in the south.
    Recently, there have been signs that American special forces have entered western Iraq from Jordan and are preparing the ground for a more extensive military action.
    The U.S. bombardment in western Iraq indicates that war is imminent and the Americans are determined to ensure that Baghdad takes no action that might require Israel to respond and get involved in the war.

    See also Allied Special Forces Operating in Western Iraq (London Times)
    Special forces from the U.S. and Britain have begun long-range reconnaissance missions from their bases along the border between Iraq and Jordan, military sources said. Remarkably, Israeli forces are also said to be involved.
    "These forces are already providing targeting information on Iraqi assets - so called Scud-hunting," said one Western military expert.
    According to one Western diplomat in Amman, some 7,000 U.S. troops are already in Jordan. Thousands more are expected to arrive soon. Scattered among the Americans are an estimated 100 British special forces troops.
    Commando Activity Already Begun in Iraq (Newsday)


Iraqi Chemical Weapons Official Shot Trying to Escape - Marie Colvin (London Times)
    Khalis Muhsin al-Tikriti, 35, had been working in the scientific department of the president's office under the authority of the Special Security Organization (SSO), headed by Qusay Hussein, Saddam's younger son and political heir.
    Al-Tikriti, an engineer, had supervised an operation to bury a significant quantity of Saddam's chemical weapons before UN weapons inspectors arrived last November. Some weapons were buried near the river Tigris in the Baji area north of Baghdad by a specially formed group in the SSO.
    In a chilling attempt to ensure that the location of the weapons remained secret, the SSO members who concealed them were executed. Al-Tikriti, fearing he too would be executed, then tried to escape and was allegedly shot in the head.


Beware of "Suicide Prisoners," Troops Told (London Times)
    U.S. Marines, likely to be among the first troops to enter Iraqi territory, fear that some prisoners of war will use the suicide tactics of Hamas bombers to cause as many casualties as possible.
    The troops have been given warning that suicide PoWs could take advantage of the chaos caused by tens of thousands of genuine Iraqi prisoners giving themselves up to the invading forces.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Bush: Monday is the "Moment of Truth"
    After meeting prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain, Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, and Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal in the Azores on Sunday to discuss Iraq, President Bush said, "Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work....We concluded that tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world." (Washington Post)
        Text: Azores Summit Press Conference (Washington Post)
  • Is the U.S. a Target for Hamas?
    U.S. intelligence agencies are warning that Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, may begin attacking U.S. citizens and facilities if a war with Iraq begins. Last month Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin denounced the Bush Administration's threats to disarm Iraq by force as "a new crusade against the Muslim nation." Yassin called for Muslims worldwide to "strike Western interests...everywhere." FBI agents suspect that there are Hamas sympathizers among the 1,000 Islamic extremists they are monitoring in the U.S. (TIME)
        See also "Dark Orange"
    A stream of CIA and FBI intelligence reports warns that Saddam Hussein is most likely to try an attack against the U.S. after an American invasion. (Newsweek)
        FBI Casts Wide Net to Battle Terrorism
    The FBI believes some 14,000-20,000 Islamic militants received training in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan over the last decade. Many hundreds of those men are living somewhere in the U.S. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iraqis Launch Campaign of Sabotage and Defiance to Undermine Saddam
    Members of the Iraqi opposition derailed a train 20 miles south of the north Iraqi city of Mosul. In a separate incident, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a train transporting fuel from Baghdad to Syria. Demonstrations were reported in Kirkuk, where an estimated 20,000 marched on the Ba'ath party headquarters demanding Saddam's overthrow. A reported demonstration by Iraqi Shi'ites in Kerbala last weekend was violently suppressed. Posters of the Iraqi president, which adorn every public building, are being openly defaced and vandalized throughout the country. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Palestinians Kill 2 "Collaborators" in West Bank
    The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement, said on Saturday it had killed two West Bank men for collaborating with Israeli security forces. The bullet-riddled bodies of the dead Palestinians, aged 28 and 45, both from villages near Nablus, were brought to the city hospital. (Reuters/New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF: Death of U.S. Activist in Gaza a "Regrettable Accident" - Arnon Regular
    Rachel Corey, 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of a bulldozer. "This is a regrettable accident," said IDF spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal. "We are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger." (Ha'aretz)
  • "Bomb Tel Aviv," Palestinians Tell Saddam - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Thousands of Palestinians flooded West Bank and Gaza Strip streets Saturday to protest against the expected war in Iraq, urging Saddam Hussein to use chemical and biological weapons against the U.S. and Israel. The protests, which took place in Ramallah, Hebron, and several parts of the Gaza Strip, were organized by professional unions. The demonstrators burned Israeli, American, and British flags and denounced the leaders of the three countries as enemies of Islam. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also On West Bank, Firm Iraq Support (Christian Science Monitor);
    Israeli Arab Leaders Take Pro-Iraq Stand - Yair Ettinger (Ha'aretz)
  • Arafat Undermines Independence of PA Prime Minister
    Yasser Arafat on Sunday proposed to the Palestinian Legislative Council several changes to a Palestinian basic law approved last Monday that a diplomatic source said constituted a significant decrease in the powers vested in the PA's prime minister. The changes would give Arafat the ultimate say in the creation of a new Palestinian Cabinet and the right to chair Cabinet meetings. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Younger Leaders Competing to Shape Palestinians' Future (New York Times)
  • Bush Statehood Call on Friday Doesn't Faze Israel- Dan Izenberg
    The Israeli government formally welcomed President Bush's announcement that the road map on Middle East peace would be presented to Israel and the Palestinians after the confirmation of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian prime minister. "We see eye to eye with President Bush," Yonatan Peled, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Saturday. "We share his vision and we are of the conviction that, once there is a Palestinian prime minister with real powers who will begin fighting to stop terror, Israel will be willing to begin discussing a solution." Sources expressed satisfaction that in his speech Friday, Bush put the onus on the Palestinian Authority to undergo reform and abandon terrorism. Israel also appreciates the U.S. leader's need to help his beleaguered European ally, Tony Blair, on the eve of a prospective war against Iraq. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Text of Bush Remarks on Middle East (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Welcomes Bush's Speech - Aluf Benn
    The Prime Minister's Office believes Bush's speech will encourage the appointment of Abu Mazen as Palestinian prime minister, marginalizing Arafat even further. Bush also removed the Europeans from the equation, making it clear that the U.S. is leading the peace process, and not the international Quartet. The president made it quite clear that the wording of the road map is far from complete, and that the administration is open to comments from either side. Finally, Bush reaffirmed that the binding basis for the renewed peace drive would be his June 2002 speech - the only one Sharon has accepted. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Foolish Death - Naomi Ragen
    How exactly am I supposed to feel about an American who comes to my country to defend those trying to kill my children? Unlike the version you will get on CNN, the death of Rachel Corrie was an accident. The army had dispersed a crowd of people blocking the way of its bulldozers which were uprooting foliage (not houses) used to hide bombs. Ms. Corrie chose to charge back in front of the bulldozer. Unfortunately, just at that moment, the bulldozer accidentally hit a concrete wall which fell on her, killing her. (Tampa Bay Primer)
  • The New York Times and Israel - Tom Gross
    On March 4, the Times carried a news report "Bombing Kills An American And 20 Others In Philippines." The next day, American Baptist, 14-year-old, Abigail Litle was among 16 people killed by a suicide bomber on a bus in Haifa, Israel. Neither the headline nor the photo caption indicated that an American had died, or that the suicide bomber had deliberately chosen a bus packed with schoolchildren, or that a majority of those killed had been teenagers. The coverage of Litle's death is just part of a familiar pattern at the Times. The paper downplays Israeli suffering, and de-emphasizes Arafat's responsibility for the suffering of Israelis and ordinary Palestinians alike. (National Review)
  • Headlines Cover for Palestinian Violence - Andrea Levin
    In a study of the Chicago Tribune by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America from June through December 2002, when Israel was acting against Palestinians, Israel was named directly in the headline 78% of the time. On the other hand, when reporting hostile Palestinian actions, the Tribune identified the perpetrators as Palestinian in only 19% of the headlines. In the span of the analysis, Israel endured nearly 50 attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen, killing nearly 200 Israelis, yet not once did the newspaper use the terms "Palestinian suicide bomber" or "Palestinian kills." Newspaper headlines rarely identify the Palestinian bombers and gunmen killing Israelis as "Palestinian," while readily naming Israel in headlines as the key actor. The obscuring of "Palestinian" responsibility inevitably promotes the false impression that Israel can and does decide the fate of the conflict. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Talking Points:

    Israel's Road Map - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

    Israel has prepared a response to the Quartet's road map. After the road map is officially presented, the U.S. will receive comments from the two sides and will encourage them to begin direct dialogue. According to the Israeli document:

    • All mention of an "independent" Palestinian state has been eliminated. The entity would have "certain attributes of sovereignty" and any such state is required to be "credible" and "law abiding." Israeli officials point out that the term "independent" was also omitted from President Bush's June 24, 2002, speech upon which the road map is based.
    • Progress will be "conditioned upon the complete cessation of violence and terrorism, full disarmament of terrorist organizations, their capabilities and infrastructure, the complete collection of illegal weapons, and the emergence of a new and different [Palestinian] leadership."
    • Israel delineates the terms under which it will agree to a freeze in settlement activity: "following a continuous and comprehensive security calm." Israel rejects the notion that the freeze will also include the natural growth of settlements. The future of the settlements will be determined only by a final agreement.
    • Comments added to the Israeli version of the document repeatedly note that promises and declarations by the Palestinians must not be trusted nor should room for Palestinian withdrawal from their commitments on issues of security be allowed.


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