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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May 12, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Syria Sheltering Former Iraqi Vice President - Damien Mcelroy (Telegraph-UK)
    Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former vice-president of Iraq and one of Saddam Hussein's closest henchmen, is being sheltered at a military base near the airport in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to a Gulf diplomat.
    He is among thousands of regime figures who are believed to have slipped into Syria.
    The diplomat said: "A substantial sum of money was paid to cross the border on an unmarked route used by shepherds."
    While the French government has denied U.S. charges that France provided passports to fleeing Iraqi officials, a Syrian employee of the French embassy in Damascus claimed that eight Iraqi officials from the oil and finance ministries had been given passports in the middle of April.
    Roni Ahmed, a self-styled people smuggler who used to help Iraqi asylum-seekers make their way to Europe, claims to have made up dozens of Swedish passports, charging £2,800 for each, and arranged for Iraqis to travel to Stockholm.
    "You could tell some of them were very important. I'm Iraqi and my family has had to rely on food rations for 10 years, but these guys were fat," Ahmad said.
    "Some were travelling overland through Russia and were worrying about getting robbed on the way."

Russia Funding Resurgent Taliban - Ian Mather (Scotsman-UK)
    Russia is funding the Taliban's guerrilla war against the American-backed government of Afghanistan.
    "There are some countries that are against the policies of the U.S. and the UN, and they support the guerrillas. The most important role belongs to Russia, Iran, and Pakistan," said Engineer Hamidullah, the Taliban's former deputy chief of finance.
    According to Taliban sources in Pakistan and Afghan intelligence sources, the group has a new hierarchy of leaders orchestrating opposition to the U.S.-sponsored Afghan government of Hamed Karzai from Afghanistan and Pashtun tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.
    Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan at New York University, said: "They [the Taliban] are now organizing for a new offensive and they are still getting some support from Pakistan. Even if Pakistan is not cooperating directly, it is not cooperating in efforts to end the support that is coming from Pakistani territory."

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Powell: New Palestinian Leadership Must "Dismantle the Terrorist Infrastructure"
    Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday in Jerusalem: "We welcome the positive steps, political steps already taken by Palestinian officials towards reform and towards peace, but we must also see rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Without such action, our best efforts will fail. I will speak with Prime Minister Abbas and his team about how to achieve this." (U.S. State Department)
        See also Palestinians: Powell Meeting "A Waste of Time"
    The Palestinian delegation was deeply disappointed by a meeting Sunday with Secretary of State Powell. "A waste of time," said one Palestinian who took part in the Jericho talks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Assad: No Decision to Close Terrorist Offices in Damascus
    Q: Secretary Powell said you had agreed to close the headquarters of some Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus. Did you?
    Assad: There are differences in priorities between us and the U.S. administration. When Secretary Powell talked about the offices, we asked him to talk about all the issues concerning our two countries in a package.
    Q: The U.S. contends that these "offices" are involved in directing terrorist operations in the territories and in Israel.
    Assad: You consider these offices to be involved in terrorist activities, but they are not.
    Q: Have you closed some offices?
    Assad: You use the word "closed." I talked with Mr. Powell about stopping "activities," not closures....No final decision was made. We are still talking. (Newsweek)
  • U.S. Knew of Terrorist, Charity Ties
    As early as 1996, the U.S. government possessed detailed information concerning terrorist penetration of Islamic charities world-wide, an intelligence report from that period shows. According to interviews with former intelligence officials and the newly available document, the CIA in 1996 provided the State Department and other agencies with detailed reporting on the charity-terror link. The report also implicates official Saudi Arabian government charities in supporting terrorism. It lists the Saudi-backed International Islamic Relief Organization, or IIRO, as having "extremist connections," including to the Palestinian group Hamas, Algerian radicals, and the Egyptian precursor to al Qaeda, Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiya. "The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League, a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia," the report states, connecting the IIRO to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and convicted terrorist Ramzi Yousef. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Expels Saudi Envoy Over Terror Links
    Fahad al Thumairy, 31, a Saudi consular official in Los Angeles since 1996, was held for two days and expelled from the U.S. last week because he was suspected of having links with terrorist organizations, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday. He was barred from returning for five years. Al Thumairy served as a prayer leader at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, one of Southern California's largest Muslim houses of worship. (Reuters)
  • Israel Ready to Ease Curbs
    Israel will readmit about 25,000 Palestinian workers after an extended ban and free about 180 prisoners in goodwill gestures arising from talks on a new Middle East peace plan, Israeli security sources says. Israeli diplomats said 63 prisoners had been freed on Sunday and about 120 more would be released on Monday. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Murder Father of Six
    Zion David, 53, an Israeli father of 6, was killed in a terrorist shooting north of Ofra as he drove to work Sunday morning, just hours after the general closure imposed on Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip was lifted in the framework of confidence-building measures. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Terrorists Came from Arafat's HQ - Amos Harel
    The shooting attack "was planned and directed" from the Muqata, the headquarters of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, military sources said Sunday. The attack was perpetrated by a cell of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, whose members worked in the past for one of the PA's security mechanisms, and are responsible for other shooting attacks. The cell members may even be staying at the PA chairman's headquarters. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sheikh Ahmad Yassin: Ceasefire is Surrender
    Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin told Islam Online on May 7, "They're asking us to stop the resistance for a period of calm that may extend to a year or more. We consider that a surrender to the Zionist enemy....Any attempt to dismantle Hamas or any Palestinian militant group will be foiled....All America's conspiracies in Mitchell, Tenet, and the Roadmap will fall. (Islam Online)
        "All the statements made by Abu Mazen indicate he is not going to disarm any Palestinian group," Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Ranteessi said in Gaza. "He is unable to disarm us, and nobody will accept disarming any of the armed Palestinian groups." (UPI)
  • Road Map Put Aside - Aluf Benn
    Just 11 days have passed since publication of the road map, and already it appears to have disappeared from the diplomatic discourse. The U.S. administration has decided to put the road map to one side and focus now on reciprocal steps on the part of the Israelis and Palestinians that will lead to a renewal of the political process.
        Israel doesn't expect the U.S. to press for real concessions as long as the Palestinian terror continues, and so far the new government in the Palestinian Authority is not taking action against it. If there is a war against terror, there will be progress in the political process; and if there isn't, all the road maps in the world will be to no avail. Next week, Sharon will visit President Bush and try to reach an understanding with him on the next steps in the process. The road map will remain in the background as a signal to the sides - "a political horizon" that will instill hope in the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Ready to Hand Over Northern Gaza to Palestinian Security
    In a meeting Sunday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz offered to pull Israeli troops out of northern Gaza and hand over the area to Palestinian security if they crack down on terrorists. The plan, known as "Gaza first," has been previously discussed as a means of giving Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas a chance to prove he can prevent terror attacks against Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Syrian Double Cross - Richard Z. Chesnoff
    According to Cofer Black, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, Damascus has begun allowing al Qaeda operatives not only to enter Syria, but to stay there and use it as a base of international operations. "We clearly don't have the full support of the Syrian government on the al Qaeda problem," says Black. "They have allowed al Qaeda personnel to come in and virtually settle in Syria with its knowledge and support." According to Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute, "Bashar [Assad] is reported to have integrated elements of Hizballah's paramilitary units into the Syrian Army in Lebanon and has in fact supplied the group with heavy arms of its own (in addition to Iranian arms transshipped via Damascus), including a new 220-mm. rocket." (New York Daily News)
  • The Export and Import of Suicide Bombers - Yoram Schweitzer
    There is nothing new in the recruitment of immigrant and second-generation Muslims in Europe by al Qaeda and other organizations in order to carry out terrorist operations, including suicide attacks. Many of these recruits have been arrested by the French, Italian, British, and German security services. Nor do the attacks constitute a precedent insofar as young Britons of Pakistani origin are concerned. (Jaffee Center-Tel Aviv University)
  • Israel/PA Roadmap Fails Rights Test
    In a 14-page briefing paper, "The Roadmap: Repeating Oslo's Human Rights Mistakes," Human Rights Watch urges the Quartet to immediately establish a separate mechanism to monitor progress in the areas of human rights and humanitarian law and to provide benchmarks for assessing such progress. Among the report's recommendations:
      * PA security forces should be established on a legislative basis, with powers clearly defined by law.
      * Legislation governing the PA's military judicial system should be revised to conform with relevant IHL and human standards.
      * Prioritize meaningful PA legal reform to ensure separation of powers, good governance, and an effective legal system, including complete abolition of the State Security Courts. (Human Rights Watch)
  • Observations:

    Abu Mazen Won't Fight Hamas - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)

    • There isn't much chance Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen will use force to make Hamas and Islamic Jihad give up. He doesn't have the political strength to fight Hamas. Much was said about how Muhammad Dahlan can take action against Hamas, the way he did in 1996 when he and Jibril Rajoub, his counterpart in the West Bank, chased down Hamas activists and drastically reduced the number of terror attacks.
    • But what happened then cannot repeat itself. In those years there were relatively few militant Islamic cells, and Fatah didn't even have a military wing. Dahlan and Rajoub didn't really have a lot of work. A few members of Hamas cells were killed in mysterious circumstances, a few hundred were arrested, and the activities of the Islamic fanatics were blocked.
    • Now there are far more Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists, possibly even thousands, and they have broad public backing. If Abu Mazen and Dahlan want to suppress them, a limited campaign of arrests won't be enough - a war will be necessary.
    • Therefore, Israelis looking forward to an Abu Mazen war on Hamas will be disappointed. Instead, they should expect a series of meetings between Abu Mazen and Hamas, and attempts to reach a compromise that, if achieved, will be far from the Israeli government's demands.

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