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DAILY ALERT

March 19, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Security Forces Planned Bus Hijacking, to Hold Hostages at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity - Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    The Shin Bet security service revealed Thursday that it had uncovered a Bethlehem-based group comprising Tanzim activists and Palestinian security forces members who were responsible for the last two suicide attacks in Jerusalem, on Bus no. 19 in late January and Bus no. 14 in late February, in which 19 people were killed.
    The group was also planning to commandeer at least one Israeli bus, take its passengers hostage, and hold them in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and had almost finalized the plan when the cell members were arrested.
    In another case, a Palestinian suicide bomber from the Nablus area who was headed for Jerusalem on Purim eve was assisted on his way to reach his target by Tanzim members holed up at Arafat's compound in Ramallah.
    The would-be attacker eventually was arrested before reaching the capital.
    The Shin Bet also reported thwarting a large-scale terror attack in Tel Aviv on Purim. Several Palestinians who planned to carry out the attack were arrested in the center of Tel Aviv on March 2.
    A senior security source said many members of the PA security forces played a central role in terror attacks.
    "The attempt to transfer security responsibility in Bethlehem to the Authority has not proved itself as relates to the security of the civilians," he said, adding that the PA made no real effort to prevent terrorists from entering Israel from the Bethlehem area.

    See also Fatah's Growing Ties to Terror - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    A Fatah-related Tanzim group from Nablus was responsible for 14 out of 15 attempted terror attacks that have been foiled since the start of the year.
    The two large-scale terror attacks perpetrated this year in Jerusalem were the work of a different Tanzim cell based in Bethlehem.
    About 80% of the 40 intelligence warnings currently under review by the Shin Bet relate to Tanzim groups.

    See also Suspected Suicide Bomber Arrested - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Security forces arrested a terrorist in the Hebron area Thursday, and were trying to determine if he was en route to Jerusalem to carry out a suicide bombing.


Scotland Yard Chief Reveals London Link to Madrid Bombings - Jason Bennetto (Independent-UK)
    Sir John Stevens, Britain's senior police chief, has revealed there is a "definite link" between the terrorists who carried out the Madrid bombings and al-Qaeda supporters based in Britain.
    Anti-terrorist and MI5 officers are investigating whether Islamic extremists based in Britain provided money and support to one of the chief suspects for the atrocity in Spain.
    A senior anti-terrorist source revealed that one of the chief suspects in the bombings, a Moroccan man, Jamal Zougam, 30, is thought to have traveled to London in search of funding and logistical help, including assistance in planning and supplying equipment and false identification papers for the bombers.
    He is known to have contacted a number of North Africans living in the UK.
    One line of inquiry is his connection with the London-based Palestinian cleric Abu Qatada, now being held at Belmarsh prison in London under anti-terrorism laws.


GAO: Iraq Earned $10.1 Billion from Oil Smuggling, UN Program - Colum Lynch (Washington Post)
    The former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein pocketed more than $10.1 billion in smuggled oil revenue and illicit proceeds from the UN-run Oil for Food program between 1997 and 2002, $3.5 billion more than previously estimated, according to testimony by the U.S. General Accounting Office Thursday.
    The GAO charged that Iraq's ruling elites acquired $5.7 billion from the proceeds of oil smuggled through Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf region. They raised an additional $4.4 billion in illegal revenue through the imposition of oil surcharges and commissions from suppliers.


Terrorists Recruiting More Children - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    There is a growing trend in the use of Palestinian children aged 11 to 17 who are recruited by terrorist organizations to perpetrate attacks in Israel.
    In addition, terrorist organizations often use children's toys and backpacks to hide bombs they plan to smuggle to activists elsewhere to be used in attacks.
    Twenty-nine suicide bombers under the age of 18 have been dispatched by terrorist organizations to perpetrate attacks since the outbreak of violence three and a half years ago.


Tourism Returns to Israel (IMRA)
    In February 2004, 89,100 tourists arrived in Israel - 61% more than in February 2003, and 39% more than in February 2002 - according to figures released by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics and the Israel Tourism Ministry.


Arabs and Israelis Repair a Wreck of a River - Martin Rosenberg (New York Times)
    For years, the Alexander River, flowing through Jewish and Palestinian towns in Israel's narrow midsection, carried an angry stew of human waste, stone-cutting debris, and the detritus from olive and sesame production.
    Now the 20-mile-long river, really a stream that could be bounded in two or three leaps, is being restored, with Israelis and Palestinians working together without fanfare at the local level.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Pakistani Troops May be Closing on Qaeda's No. 2
    Pakistani military and intelligence officials said Thursday they believed they had surrounded al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, near the border with Afghanistan, as stiff fighting between Pakistani forces and militants continued. Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, said a "high-value target" had "very likely" been surrounded in South Waziristan, and that the fierce resistance led him to believe it was a senior Qaeda leader. A clash on Tuesday left 16 soldiers and as many as 24 militants dead. On Thursday, fighting erupted in four areas, involving as many as 500 to 600 militants, military officials said. On Thursday, the House of Representatives increased the reward for information leading to bin Laden's capture to $50 million from $25 million. The reward for information leading to Zawahiri's capture stands at $25 million. (New York Times)
        See also Zawahiri: The Brain of al-Qaeda? (Janes-UK)
        See also U.S. Will Celebrate Pakistan as a "Major Non-NATO Ally"  (New York Times)
  • Spain Arrests 5 More Suspects in Madrid Bomb Attacks
    Five more suspects were arrested Thursday in the deadly Madrid train bombings, police officials said, as investigators gathered new evidence that the plot was led by Moroccan militants with ties to the al-Qaeda network. A senior foreign intelligence official familiar with the Madrid investigation said three of those arrested were Moroccans. Police officials identified a fourth as a Spanish citizen who was believed to have sold the explosives used in the attacks. The emerging picture suggests that at least some of those implicated were Moroccan immigrants with ties to Islamic radicals in Morocco who have been blamed for suicide bombings last May in Casablanca. (New York Times)
  • Iraq Attacks Blamed on Islamic Extremists
    Islamic extremists have emerged as "the principal threat" to security in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, which controls the capital. Officers based in restive areas outside Baghdad, including the commander of an Army battalion in Fallujah and the commander of a brigade in Baqubah, said the same trend has emerged in their areas. Foreign fighters still constitute a relatively small component of the insurgency. Dempsey estimated there were only about 100 "foreign terrorists" in Baghdad.
        Military officials said the foreign fighters were making up for what they lacked in numbers by plugging into networks of Iraqi Sunni Muslim extremists who adhere to the same radical Wahhabi brand of Islam as bin Laden. The foreigners are bringing money, technical expertise, and encouragement to get hundreds of Iraqis to plant roadside bombs, assassinate people collaborating with occupation forces, and detonate explosive-packed vehicles. (Washington Post)
  • Saudis Say U.S. Was Wrong to Criticize Detentions
    Saudi Arabia's government said Thursday that it was "disappointed" by Washington's criticism of its detention of 13 intellectuals and called the matter an internal security issue. On Wednesday the State Department criticized Saudi Arabia for the arrests of 13 liberals this week, calling it a step backward that was "inconsistent with the kind of forward progress that reform-minded people are looking for." (AP/New York Times)
  • Egypt and Israel Discuss Industrial Trade Zone
    Nearly a decade after an agreement first allowed for joint industrial areas where Egyptian goods with Israeli content can gain tariff-free access to the U.S., Egypt and Israel finally seem to be seriously considering the creation of so-called Qualifying Industrial Zones. "Egypt and Israel are working now on the fine details of a Q.I.Z. agreement," said Eli Shakad, the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. "The Egyptians understand it serves their national interests," he added. Under the Q.I.Z. legislation, a 1996 Clinton administration initiative, at least 11.7% of the value added to any goods produced in a qualifying zone must come from Israel. "You have to import from Israel in order to qualify," said Fahd al-Fanek, an economist in Jordan, a country also included in the legislation. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jordan's King Abdullah Visits Sharon - Aluf Benn
    King Abdullah of Jordan on Thursday paid a secret visit to Prime Minister Sharon's Sycamore Ranch in the Negev, where the two leaders held a several-hour meeting. The last time the two met openly was at the Aqaba summit in June 2003. Prior to that, they held at least one secret meeting, on the eve of America's invasion of Iraq. Jordan's main fear is that Israeli disengagement from the territories will encourage Palestinians seeking work to come to Jordan instead.
        Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, will head for Washington early next week in an effort to reach an agreement with the U.S. administration on diplomatic and security guarantees as compensation for withdrawing from Gaza. Sharon's visit to Washington is planned for March 31. (Ha'aretz)
  • Harnessing the Internal Opposition - Herb Keinon
    The fact that Sharon is facing so much internal opposition to the disengagement plan, but remains committed to it, will resonate favorably in Washington, and may increase the Bush administration's willingness to support the plan with firm commitments that Sharon can then take home to help convince his wavering ministers. Sharon is hoping that if he goes to Washington under fierce political fire, the Bush administration will look at his plight, realize new Israeli elections would just push everything off even longer and give the terrorists more of an opportunity to set the agenda, and decide that the least they can do is give him full backing.
        Sharon wants a full-throated U.S. endorsement of the plan; a U.S. commitment to help garner international support for it; a public U.S. nod that it does not expect Israel to withdraw fully to the 1967 lines but can eventually retain the large settlement blocs in the West Bank; and a promise that Israel will not come under any U.S. pressure to consider new diplomatic initiatives until Arafat is removed.
        Officials in the Prime Minister's Office have become fond of describing the whole disengagement idea as a "parking place." Disengagement, and its cousin the security fence, is not the final agreement with the Palestinians, but a place where Israel will "park" until the Palestinians get their house in order, dump Arafat, take on the terrorist organizations, and prove to Israel that they can present a genuine, trustworthy partner. This, needless to say, could take years, if not decades. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosion Flips Israeli Tank in Gaza Raid
    During operations in the Gaza Strip, an explosive device was detonated near a tank in the Netzarim area, causing the tank to overturn and lightly wounding two of the soldiers in the tank, Israel Radio reported Friday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Russia: PA Has Not Fulfilled Obligations
    Russia's Middle East envoy said Thursday Palestinians and Israelis have failed to fulfill their obligations under the road-map peace plan. "The Palestinian side has to take steps on the security issue and to exert more efforts to stop suicide attacks against Israeli civilians," Russia's special envoy to the Middle East, Alexander Kalugin, said after meeting with Arab League chief Amr Moussa. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Usual Suspects - Ronald S. Lauder
    At a number of recent public forums dealing with American foreign policy in New York, the question-and-answer sessions were marked by the following challenges: Individuals stood up and asked if the speakers would comment on the "neo-cons like Perle, Kristol, and Krauthammer who control the Pentagon." They really meant Jews. In an underhanded and deceitful manner, these disingenuous questioners were using code words to say what is not politically correct to utter in polite society. They are hardly original. Back in the 1930s, Gerald L.K. Smith and the Reverend Charles Coughlin preached vociferously about a cabal of "international bankers" and the "money changers" who controlled and manipulated the world's economy in evil ways. Everyone knew who they were really talking about. They meant Jews.
        Now, when people who talk about the latest "cabals of neo-conservatives" and only mention the Jewish names in the group, it's just the latest way of talking about you-know-who. And when they fail to mention the many non-Jews who feel the same way, and they believe that only Jews have the secret power to manipulate the minds of such softies as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush, they are practicing a time-honored and despicable tradition. They are the political heirs to bigots like Smith and Coughlin.
        It seems that the Holocaust produced a half-life of tolerance of just about six decades. Now enough time seems to have passed to allow the whispering campaign to begin again. We see it throughout Europe, we read the medievalist writings from the Muslim world, and we even hear it right here in New York. So the next time you are at a dinner party or on a bus or at a public forum and you hear someone talk about those "neo-cons" and only mention the usual suspects while conveniently forgetting names like Fred Barnes, Christopher Caldwell, and Brit Hume, challenge them. Ask them what they really mean. And then walk away. The writer is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the president of the Jewish National Fund. (New York Sun)
  • The Price of Freedom in Iraq - Donald H. Rumsfeld
    Today, in a world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and states that sponsor the former and pursue the latter, defending freedom means we must confront dangers before it is too late. Last week the Iraqi Governing Council unanimously signed an interim constitution. It guarantees freedom of religion and expression; the right to assemble and to organize political parties; the right to vote; and the right to a fair, speedy, and open trial. It prohibits discrimination based on gender, nationality, and religion, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention. A year ago, none of those protections could have been even imagined by the Iraqi people. (New York Times)
  • Spaniards Capitulating... - Charles Krauthammer
    When confronting an existential enemy - an enemy that wants to terminate your very existence - there are only two choices: appeasement or war. Today there is no doubting the intentions of Arab-Islamic radicalism. The intention, endlessly repeated, is the establishment of a primitive, messianic caliphate - redeeming Islam and dominating the world - Taliban Afghanistan, writ large.
        Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, is right that the war on terror is not resolved by force alone. How is it won apart from hunting down terrorists and destroying terrorist regimes? By reversing the Arab-Islamic world's tragic collapse into oppression, intolerance, and destitution, in which popular grievances are cynically deflected by repressive regimes and clergy into the virulent anti-Americanism that exploded upon us on Sept. 11, 2001. Which means trying to give desperate and oppressed people a chance at the kind of freedom and prosperity that we helped construct after World War II in Europe and East Asia. (Washington Post)
  • Madrid: Pearl Harbor or Munich? - Sen. Joe Lieberman
    In our domestic politics, it is critical that Republicans and Democrats not let the quest for partisan victory this November prevent us from working together now to achieve a national victory over the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. In the same way, it is important that our European allies not allow their opposition to many of the Bush administration's foreign policies to separate them from America in defeating Islamic terrorists. The same solidarity that enabled us to defeat communism is urgently needed to defeat terrorism. Anyone in Europe who thinks a separate peace can be made with the terrorists has not heard or read the warnings of Osama bin Laden. We are all their enemies, because we share the same values of freedom and democracy that brought us together as an alliance. The terrorist insurgents we are fighting in Iraq today come from the same fanatical movement as those who struck Madrid. (Washington Post)
  • Sanctioning Syria: A Moment of Opportunity - Patrick Clawson
    Since March 8, 2004, Syria has witnessed an unprecedented series of riots by Kurds and protests by human rights activists and intellectuals. These developments set the stage for the Bush administration's imminent announcement about imposing sanctions in accordance with the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The disappointing reality is that carrots and sticks have not had much influence on Syrian policy; regional developments seem to be a much more important determinant of the regime's behavior.
        Perhaps a bolder approach would have some success. Such a strategy would entail imposing serious sanctions under the new Accountability Act, not a symbolic minimum. At the same time, the administration would have to spell out what Syria needs to do in order to have certain restrictions relaxed and for Washington to promote quiet Israeli-Syrian talks. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Millions in Aid for Palestinian Authority, But Where Has It Gone? - David Frankfurter
    The European Union has poured an astonishing 4 billion into Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) since 1993. Together with contributions from the UK, the U.S. and other countries, this, according to a leading World Bank official, is the largest per capita transfer of aid funds ever. But where has the investment gone? Consider: Nabil Shaath, the PA's current foreign minister, was cited back in 1997 for financial mismanagement. Today, he owns a super-luxury villa in the middle of Gaza. Mrs. Arafat lives in ostentatious luxury in Paris with her mother and staff, funded from EU-provided budgets. The IMF, in a September 2003 report, revealed that hundreds of millions have been misappropriated and pointed to major structural deficiencies within the PA's Ministry of Finance.
        New villas in Ramallah and Gaza are the few visible signs of donor money having passed through town. The European Commission money managers must be seeing this. Otherwise, how do we explain their recently revised strategy of channeling aid into Palestinian NGOs instead of directly to the PA? Yet most Palestinian NGOs are connected to the PA leadership. Some have been caught engaging in corrupt practices or working outside their stated charters. European money plays a very significant role in the events affecting the Palestinians. The taxpayer deserves to see a better use of the money. (Scotsman-UK)
  • Like It or Not, the West Just Can't Leave the Middle East - Martin Woollacott
    Why are we in the Middle East? We have to return to the fundamental fact that the driving aim of al-Qaeda and its allies is not only to get Western forces out of Iraq, but to get the West in all its manifestations out of the whole region. Not just its soldiers, but its businessmen, clerics, scholars, teachers, and aid workers. And not just Westerners, but those Arabs who have allegedly become Westerners in their hearts.
        It is the contention of al-Qaeda and its allies that Western support for Arab regimes and for Israel, and the insidious Western cultural influence that goes along with that support, are the two great obstacles standing in the way of a purification and renewal of the Muslim world. Once the West has been cowed into a retreat, then the real war for power and religious dominance in the Middle East can begin. Given the complex realities of the societies they imagine they will at some point control, and the utter inadequacy of their own resources - other than for destructive purposes - their ambitions are certainly doomed to fail. But on the way to that failure they can clearly do grave damage to both civilizations. (Guardian-UK)

    Weekend Features:

  • Textbooks for Jihad - Lee Kaplan
    Prestigious American textbook publishers such as Prentice-Hall, Simon and Schuster, TCI, and others are educating your child to the "Arab point of view" and its aspirations of world domination. Gilbert T. Sewell of the American Textbook Council, a non-profit that reviews history textbooks, recently submitted a report that reviewed the teaching of Islam in most of our children's history textbooks. He discovered that sections concerning Islam in books distributed by the main U.S. publishers have been sanitized. In general, current or past events about Islam are not reported accurately for the sake of "political correctness," while Arab and Palestinian political goals are strongly promoted.
        Teacher's Curriculum Institute's Modern Middle East curriculum unit is blatantly anti-Israeli, with "exercises" pitting some students in roles as advantaged Jews against other students as disadvantaged and unfairly treated Palestinian Arabs. The TCI material turns Middle East history on its head. It does not present the history of Arab terrorism against Israel, much less outline its extent over the last 55 years. The theme is constantly reiterated that Israel is a foreign entity that stole the Palestinians' "country." (FrontPageMag.com)
  • Indoctrination of Hate - Barbara Sofer
    A Venezuelan plastic surgeon who'd arrived in our area on a humanitarian mission to Gaza reported on the indoctrination of hate. The doctor had arrived with a medical team that traveled the Third World to repair cleft palates and disfiguring facial injuries. In Gaza, they'd seen facial scars typical of burns caused from tipped cooking pots in crowded kitchens. But when the surgeons asked how the injury was caused, in every other country the kids reported spilled cooking kettles. In Gaza, even the smallest child claimed that "the Israeli soldier pushed me," even though the scars clearly came from home accidents. The surgeon wondered if the kids had been coached or if they suffered from group hysteria. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fukuyama in Tel Aviv - Peter Berkowitz
    In the late summer of 1989 Prof. Francis Fukuyama maintained that evidence had reached a critical threshold suggesting liberal democracy was establishing itself around the world as the regime most consistent with the desires for freedom and equal recognition built into human nature. Almost before the ink had dried on his article, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union silently disintegrated.
        The key question thus far posed by the 21st century, Fukuyama observed at a Tel Aviv University conference, is whether there is a Muslim exception to the end of history. Fukuyama doubts it. He pointed out that the real democracy deficit is not in Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries but in Muslim Arab countries of the Middle East. And there the problem, he suggested, was not Islam, though he indicated it still awaits its Luther, but bad government and dismal economic prospects that produce an angry alienation on which purveyors of radical Islam prey. What is necessary on the part of the liberal democracies of the world, according to Fukuyama, is the right kind of politics, one that knows that individual freedom is the long-term goal but which takes careful account of, and learns to work with, the distinctive culture of Arab and Muslim societies. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Amos Gilad: "No Doubt About It, Saddam Had Chemical Weapons"
    - Amir Rappaport (Maarivenglish.com)

    Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad served as Head of the Intelligence Directorate, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and IDF Spokesman. Today, he heads the Diplomatic-Political Branch in the Ministry of Defense.

    • Gilad insists that although no non-conventional weapons were found in Iraq, "there is no doubt that Saddam had those weapons." "Based on my contacts with agencies around the world, immediately before the war, Iraq had a military biological weapons program and chemical weapons." Regarding nuclear weapons, they were in the early stages of development.
    • Q: If so, where is this arsenal? Why hasn't it been found?
      "I can state with certainty that in many places they [the U.S.] found things that were suspected of being chemical and biological weapons. The Americans apparently thought that the Iraqi people would receive them with open arms and, therefore, did not hurry to examine things. Very quickly, it became clear that the suspicious objects, which were in places where the Americans could not reach them, simply disappeared. In addition, the riddle regarding the possibility that the Iraqis trucked chemical and biological weapons and scientists to Syria before the war remains unsolved."
    • "As I understand it, Saddam is not answering his interrogators....I wouldn't be surprised if he and his friends don't speak as long as the interrogation continues. He has no reason to speak. In any case, he knows that he will eventually be tried for war crimes and, in Iraq, the punishment is likely to be death."
    • Q: What are the main ramifications of the war in Iraq?
      • "The most amazing result is Libya, which voluntarily decided to give up its nuclear weapons."
      • "The second result is the delay in Iran's nuclear program. Unlike Libya, the Iranians are not willing to give up their program but at least they are delaying it."
      • "The war also resulted in the cessation of the direct payment of $25,000 to families of suicide bombers in the territories."
      • "Syria finds itself completely isolated. If, in the past, it had plans to attack Israel, that idea currently receives very little thought, which doesn't prevent it from encouraging terror."


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