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DAILY ALERT

Monday,
July 9, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Defector Reveals Some of Iran's Nuclear Secrets - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    Top Iranian intelligence official Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in Istanbul last February, has defected in an intricate CIA operation that transferred him and his family to the U.S., Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday.
    Asgari has been able to shed new light on much of the Iranian regime's most inner workings, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear development project.
    Asgari told his interrogators that Iran is working in a stealth path toward enriching uranium by using laser beams along with certain chemicals designed to enhance the process, in trials held in a special weapons facility in Natanz.
    Iran is making special efforts to hide this path from the West, Asgari said.


Mullahs Gone Wild - John Mauldin (Forbes)
    Oil provides more than 70% of the revenues of the government of Iran.
    The rise in oil prices has been a bonanza for the regime, allowing it to subsidize all sorts of welfare programs at home and mischief abroad.
    One of the chief subsidies is gasoline prices. Iran is spending 38% of its national budget on gasoline subsidies.
    Iran produced over 6 billion barrels of oil before the revolution in 1979. They now produce around 4 billion barrels a year.
    They are currently producing about 5% below their quota, which shows they are at their limits under current capacity.
    Iran looks like Russia did in 1988 - a welfare state built on the Soviet model widely understood as a formula for long-run economic suicide.


In Morocco's "Chemist," a Glimpse of Al-Qaeda - Craig Whitlock (Washington Post)
    On March 6, Moroccan police arrested a fugitive in a cybercafe in Casablanca who many people assumed had fled the country or was dead.
    Saad al-Houssaini, known as "the Chemist" because of his scientific training and bombmaking skills, had vanished four years earlier after he was accused of helping to organize the deadliest terrorist attack in Moroccan history.
    It turned out that Houssaini had remained underground in Casablanca as he rebuilt a terrorist operative network and recruited fighters to go to Iraq.
    He also spent time designing explosives belts that investigators believe were used in a string of suicide attacks this spring.
    "The Chemist" provides a vivid example of how veteran members of al-Qaeda's central command have continued to plot major terrorist attacks around the world despite the capture or deaths of many of the network's top operatives since Sept. 11, 2001.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Al-Qaeda Veteran Led Gang that Kidnapped BBC Correspondent - Marie Colvin
    The mastermind behind the kidnapping of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston is Qattab al-Maqdesy, a native of Gaza and an experienced terrorist who fought with al-Qaeda alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • UK Car Bombs Linked with Iraq's Al-Qaeda - David Leppard
    At least one of the suspects being quizzed over the plot to set off car bombs in Britain was in recent contact with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, senior security officials said Saturday. Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command SO15 has uncovered evidence that in the months leading up to the attacks one or more of the suspects communicated by telephone or e-mail with terrorist leaders in Iraq. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • Tunneling Near Iranian Nuclear Site Stirs Worry - Joby Warrick
    The sudden flurry of digging seen in recent satellite photos of a mountainside in the back yard of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility appears to be the start of a major tunnel complex inside the mountain. The construction has raised concerns at the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The tunnel complex certainly appears to be related to Natanz," said David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector.
        In a report analyzing the photos, officials of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) compared the new Natanz construction with a tunnel built by Iran inside a mountain near Esfahan, home to a major nuclear research center and a factory that converts uranium to a form that can be enriched at Natanz. Iran began the work at Esfahan in 2004, digging a large, two-entrance mountain tunnel that it later acknowledged was meant for nuclear storage. "Such a tunnel inside a mountain would offer excellent protection from an aerial attack," said the ISIS report. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Cabinet Okays Fatah Prisoner Release - Mark Weiss
    The Israeli Cabinet approved the release of 250 Fatah security prisoners on Sunday. Those released will be members of Fatah who do not have "blood on their hands," i.e., prisoners who had not personally participated in lethal terrorist attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Official: Prisoner Release Will Make Things Worse for Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The release of 250 Palestinian security prisoners from Israeli jails is unlikely to boost the standing of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. All the freed prisoners are expected to belong to Fatah. A senior Fatah official admitted on Sunday, "The release of the Fatah prisoners could only make matters worse for us, because it will look as if Israel is rewarding Fatah for agreeing to collaborate with the Israelis and Americans." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Al Aqsa Brigades Demands Abbas Remove Fayyad
    The Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, released a statement Friday demanding that Mahmoud Abbas remove Prime Minister Salam Fayyad from his post. Fayyad said he will not allow the existence of "armed militias" in the Palestinian territories. The Brigades stated that Fayyad told CNN that the resistance brought misery to the Palestinian people, and added that "Fayyad is America's man in Palestine, he is the first Palestinian prime minister who carries American citizenship." (IMEMC-PA)
        See also Al Aqsa Brigades Members Resign from PA Security Forces
    The leader of the Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades in Nablus, Alaa Sanaqra, along with several other brigades' members, submitted their resignation from the PA security forces on Thursday, as a result of what they called "internal differences." In recent years, many Brigades' members have been employed in the security forces in order to be protected against the Israelis and prevent Brigades' members being targeted by Israeli forces. (Maan News-PA)
  • IDF Uncovers Seven Palestinian Rocket Launchers
    The IDF uncovered seven Kassam launchers near Beit Hanun in Gaza during operations on Friday. All seven launchers were connected to stopwatches, including one that had a rocket already in place. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Five Palestinian Rockets Hit Israel - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharof and Mijal Grinberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel on Sunday, two of which damaged a construction site. On Saturday, three rockets landed in the western Negev. Israel Defense Forces troops moving along the fence separating Israel from Gaza came under fire twice. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Islamists Play Good-Cop, Bad-Cop - Gerard Baker
    We've had an exercise in good-cop, bad-cop with our Islamist friends in the past week. In London and Glasgow, the nutters tried the explosive, take-no-prisoners approach to persuading the West to do their bidding. Over in Gaza, at least when it comes to Europeans rather than Israelis, Hamas prefers the take-prisoners-and-then-generously-let-them-go approach. Hamas' worldview and geopolitical ambitions, however, are exactly the same as those fireball physicians.
        Funny isn't it, how, when the U.S. or British governments do anything they claim is good we always assume there's some ulterior motive? But when Hamas pulls a stunt like the one it managed this week, we're all lost in innocent admiration at the sheer humanity of these people. We really ought to know that this latest incident is straight from the Hamas playbook - doing little works of charity and economic efficiency in Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian equivalent of making the trains run on time, to further their bloodcurdling big objectives. We need to be much less naive about Hamas. Its members want to destroy Israel and wage war on the West. (Times-UK)
  • The Middle East: Now Playing at a Theater Near You - Thomas Friedman
    In the past few years, hundreds of Muslims have committed suicide amid innocent civilians - without making any concrete political demands and without generating any vigorous, sustained condemnation in the Muslim world. Not all Muslims are terrorists. But virtually all suicide terrorists today are Muslims. Angry Norwegians aren't doing this - nor are starving Africans or unemployed Mexicans. Muslims have got to understand that a death cult has taken root in the bosom of their religion. (New York Times)
        See also Islam's "Death Cult" - Michael Hirsh
    There are many people, in many different societies and cultures, who are angry about many things. Would any other culture or religion produce a group of doctors and professionals who apparently deemed it morally correct to kill innocent people in large numbers? Muslims must find a way to remove this modern cancer - this fundamentalist death cult - that has infected their religion. None of us on the outside can do it for them. (Newsweek)
  • Make Human Rights a Central Part of Any Decision - Natan Sharansky
    In totalitarian regimes there are no human rights. Period. The media do not criticize the government. Parliaments do not check executive power. Courts do not uphold due process. And human rights groups don't file reports. For most people, life under totalitarianism is slavery with no possibility of escape. In a national poll of Iraqis conducted this spring by a British market-research firm, nearly 2 to 1 (49% to 26%) said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny. By consistently ignoring the fundamental moral divide that separates societies in which people are slaves from societies in which people are free, some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    It's Hard to Be an Arab - Barry Rubin (Global Politician)

    • It's a tough, stressful life being Arab. At best, you have to keep your mouth shut; at worst you have to sing the praise of your dictators, those leading you to disaster. What if you are Palestinian or Lebanese and terrorists choose to use the roof of your house to fire rockets at Israelis? Do you run upstairs and tell these armed men to stop shooting and go away? Can you even dare criticize them publicly after your home gets blown up?
    • When dealing with the most thoughtful, and idealistic Arab intellectuals, I have a repetitive sadly amusing experience. In private, they speak honestly about the need for peace with Israel, their own leaders' shortcomings, and their hope for change. Then, the microphones and cameras turn on and they recite, parrot-like, the official line.
    • Polls show ordinary Palestinians want peace with Israel and an end to the fighting. That may well be true, but do their leaders and all those gunmen care at all for how these people feel? These are the forces ensuring that there be no two-state solution and end to the endless violence from which they benefit.
    • How can one not feel the misery of the Arab peoples, intoxicated as many are by the opiate of Arab nationalism and Islamism, the false promises of impending triumphs and the horror stories of satanic foes? How can one not sympathize with the frustration of real moderates who live in societies where they are treated as madmen and traitors?


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