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

September 22, 2003

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info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Hamas Returns to Syrian Base - Uzi Mahnaimi (Sunday Times-UK)
    American and Israeli intelligence sources warned last week that militant Palestinian organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad had begun to return to their offices in Damascus and are now fully operational again.
    The groups are thought to have scaled down their activities during the summer after Washington put pressure on Syria in the weeks following the defeat of Saddam Hussein.
    The Syrians were providing different levels of sponsorship and support to at least seven organizations that appear on a list released by America's Office of Counterterrorism in October 2001.
    According to an Israeli intelligence source, Hamas now has two or three offices in Damascus, headed by Imad al-Alami, who "coordinates, finances and orchestrates suicide attacks in Israel."
    The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also operates an office in the city, headed by Abdallah Ramadan Shalah, who finances and commands the group's activities inside Israel.
    Both Hamas and PIJ are believed to operate training camps in Syria for Palestinians from the West Bank.


The Palestinians' Protective Shield - Ben Caspit (Maariv-Hebrew; 19Sep03)
    Recently, while PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad was working in Ramallah, unidentified persons broke into his Gaza office and destroyed everything inside.
    Fayad heard of the incident and sped to Gaza, only to learn that his Ramallah office had just been ransacked.
    Those responsible, he knew, were Arafat's men from security services Arafat still controls and pays personally.
    But Arafat knows not to harm Fayad himself. The day Fayad leaves, the fountain of Palestinian money will run dry.
    Israel will stop transferring payments and donor countries will follow suit. Fayad is the sole signatory on these accounts.


Arafat's Blood Brothers - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Last week a delegation from the PA Ministry of Agriculture came to see Arafat in Ramallah to express their solidarity. Minister of Agriculture Rakif Natsheh handed Arafat a letter of praise from dozens of ministry officials and employees - signed by each of them in blood.
    Former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas didn't come to Ramallah, where many of Arafat's followers were chanting slogans condemning Abbas as a CIA agent.
    "I feel sick when I see all these people dancing in the streets for a leader who has led them from one disaster to another," said a senior aide to Abbas. "As long as he's around, Arafat will never allow anyone else to have a say in Palestinian decision-making."


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Audit: Arafat Diverted $900M in Public Money
    An audit of the Palestinian Authority revealed that Arafat diverted $900 million in public money in 1999 to a special bank account he controlled, IMF official Karim Nashashibi said Saturday. Most of the cash, which came from revenue in the budget, went into some 69 commercial activities in Palestinian areas and abroad, worth an estimated $700 million in today's market prices, "which probably in '99 were $900 million," Nashashibi said. Nashashibi did not rule out the possibility that a portion of the money was misused. "What we're trying to do is have a level of disclosure and transparency so that future or present misuse does not happen....At least there is a follow-up, there is disclosure," Nashashibi said. (AP/Charlotte Observer)
  • Ayatollah Calls for End to NPT
    Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a hard-liner who heads the Guardian Council, the most powerful governing body, said his country should consider withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, raising fresh fears that Iran will ignore an international deadline to curb its nuclear ambitions. On Friday Jannati said Iran should defy demands for tougher nuclear inspections. "What is wrong with considering this treaty on nuclear energy and pulling out of it?" he asked. "North Korea withdrew." It emerged last week that Britain, France, and Germany had secretly offered to share nuclear technology with Iran if it accepted tougher nuclear inspections and scrapped its uranium enrichment program, despite strong U.S. objections. On Friday Moscow said its nuclear cooperation talks with Iran, intended to clear the way for shipments of Russian nuclear fuel to the plant, could take a long time to finalize - a signal welcomed by Washington. (London Sunday Telegraph/Washington Times)
  • Last American Combat Troops Quit Saudi Arabia
    The last few American combat troops pulled out of Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, officially closing the Persian Gulf headquarters used by the Air Force during both Iraq wars and concluding a nearly 13-year run of extensive U.S. military operations in Saudi Arabia. (New York Times)
        See also Abdullah and Bush Discuss Mideast Crisis
    Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, and U.S. President Bush discussed the Middle East crisis in a telephone conversation Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Sharon: Israel's Threat May Have Led Arafat to Prevent Terror - Shlomo Shamir
    Prime Minister Sharon said in the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday: "It appears that the reprieve from terror attacks stems from the fact that Arafat was alarmed by the threat, and is acting to prevent terror attacks accordingly." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Clarification by Prime Minister's Office
    The Prime Minister’s office issued a clarification on Monday stating that the Prime Minister speculated in Sunday’s cabinet meeting: “I don’t know why there’s been a reduction in terrorist attacks. It could be from IDF operations against terrorist infrastructures; it could also be that those PA officials surrounding Arafat fear for his fate, and, as a result, are avoiding engaging in terrorism. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies: Post-Iraq Threat Assessment - Amnon Barzilai
    According to Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy head of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, which published its annual threat assessment Sunday, Iraq's defeat meant the disappearance of the most radical state in the Middle East and consequently, the weakening of other radical Arab countries, which will considerably slow down the arms race in the region. He also said that Israel will now be able to focus its responses to the non-conventional warfare of terrorism. Jaffee Center scholars conclude that the Palestinians were also very weakened by the fall of Iraq, which was the head of the radical Arab camp. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Kidnaps, Tortures PA Security Agent - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Muhammad al-Sheikh, 38, a member of the PA's Preventive Security Service in Gaza, said on Saturday he was kidnapped last Wednesday by six armed Hamas activists and brutally tortured. "They beat me with chains, clubs, and pipes," he said. "I wasn't able to sleep for two days because of the pain. They told me, 'You and [PA Security Minister Muhammad] Dahlan are traitors and Israeli spies.'" In another incident on Saturday, PA security officials said that two Palestinian gunmen were killed in Tulkarm in clashes between rival factions of Al-Aksa Brigades. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanese Troops Clash with Hizballah
    Lebanese troops fired at Hizballah forces in southern Lebanon Sunday in the first such clash in more than a decade, killing one and wounding two, a Hizballah official said. The incident began when members of rival Shiite Muslim groups Hizballah and Amal clashed over hanging political posters in a village mosque. The rivals beat each other with sticks, prompting Lebanese army troops in the area to open fire. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Bomb - Editorial
    As Iran faces an Oct. 31 deadline to give IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities and programs, the world faces its own Iranian deadline. If work at the extensive nuclear facilities uncovered around the country during the past year is not frozen, the fundamentalist Islamic regime will soon have the capacity to manufacture the key elements of nuclear weapons. Israeli officials say this "point of no return" could be reached by the middle of next year. Time is running out for the Iranian program to be stopped by diplomatic or political means. The Iranians understand this: They have been stalling the IAEA and its inspectors for months and likely will continue to do so even if they formally agree to the agency's demands. Their strategy has a good chance of working unless the U.S., Europe, and Russia quickly start doing a better job of coordinating a common response. (Washington Post)
  • Pharaohs-in-Waiting: Who Will Suceed Hosni Mubarak? - Mary Anne Weaver
    The Muslim Brotherhood has established itself in recent years in Egypt as an increasingly attractive political alternative. During the build-up to the Iraq War, I spent a month in Cairo - where I lived more than twenty years ago and have visited regularly since - and I was struck more than ever before by how Islamic the city has become. An Egyptian Islamist lawyer said that on average 10-15% of the defendents in Islamist trials are former or active-duty military men. Everyone to whom I spoke agreed that the Islamists would almost certainly win if free and fair elections were held in Egypt. (Atlantic Monthly, October 2003)
        See also Bread Shortage in Egypt
    Egyptian newspapers have for days been reporting shortages of bread, with long lines forming outside bakeries. The problem stems from a national flour shortage caused by a below-average wheat harvest, technical problems at mills, and higher international wheat prices. (AFP/Taipei Times/)
  • Pillars of the U.S.-Saudi Relationship - Rachel Bronson
    The basic premise of the U.S.-Saudi relationship has collapsed. Throughout the Cold War, Saudi Arabia was important to the U.S. because of its oil, because the U.S. wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Soviets, because of its geographic position, and because of its ideology. As a theocracy, it provided a natural antidote to communism. Today, the pillars of this relationship have fallen away, and it is not clear what this relationship is about except a crude exchange of security in return for oil. (Council on Foreign Relations)
        See also How Long Can the House of Saud Last? - Editorial
    As the West applies greater scrutiny to Saudi Arabia, it is becoming clear that the Saudi royal family's grip on their country may be weakening. While the recent departure of U.S. troops will no doubt please radical Islamists, the continued popularity of bin Laden shows religious and political disaffection is rife. In the pre-9/11 days, the thought of the West's oil caretakers being thrown from power would have caused shrieks of alarm in Western capitals. And even now, it seems possible that whatever local cabal might wrest power from the House of Saud would simply provide its subjects with a different, and perhaps more unstable, flavor of bigotry and dictatorship. But plainly, it is time for the West to start thinking soberly about what will follow when the House of Saud collapses under the weight of its own corruption. That eventuality no longer qualifies as something Western governments should only dread, but also as a chance to bring much needed change to a hateful regime. (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Saudi Arabia's Dubious Denials of Involvement in International Terrorism - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Saudi Arabia's past involvement in international terrorism is indisputable. While the Bush administration withheld 28 sensitive pages of the Joint Intelligence Report of the U.S. Congress, nonetheless, Saudi involvement in terrorist financing can be documented through materials captured by Israel in Palestinian headquarters in 2002-3. In light of this evidence, Saudi denials about terrorist funding don't hold water.
    • Israel retrieved a document of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) which detailed the allocation of $280,000 to 14 Hamas charities. IIRO and other suspected global Saudi charities are not NGOs, since their boards of directors are headed by Saudi cabinet members. Prince Salman, a full brother of King Fahd, controls IIRO distributions “with an iron hand,” according to former CIA operative Robert Baer. Mahmoud Abbas, in fact, complained, in a handwritten December 2000 letter to Salman, about Saudi funding of Hamas. Defense Minister Prince Sultan has been cited as a major IIRO contributor.
    • It was hoped, after the May 12 triple bombing attack in Riyadh, that Saudi Arabia might halt its support for terrorism. Internally, the Saudi security forces moved against al-Qaeda cells all over the kingdom. But externally, the Saudis were still engaged in terrorist financing, underwriting 60-70% of the Hamas budget, in violation of their “roadmap” commitments to President Bush.
    • Additionally, the Saudis back the civilian infrastructure of Hamas with extremist textbooks glorifying jihad and martyrdom that are used by schools and Islamic societies throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ideological infiltration of Palestinian society by the Saudis in this way is reminiscent of their involvement in the madrassa system of Pakistan during the 1980s, that gave birth to the Taliban and other pro bin-Laden groups.


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