Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Top Tehran Officials Recommend Preemptive Strike Against Israel - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Somali Piracy Shakes Confidence in Suez Canal Route - Joseph Mayton (Middle East Times)
Two Convicted in Denmark of Preparing Terror Attack - Jan M. Olsen
Spy Pigeons and Secret Squirrels in Iran - Dion Nissenbaum
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The German government has decided to "discourage" companies from doing business with Iran after criticism that Berlin has not done enough to pressure Tehran. It was decided last week that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economics should hold talks with trade associations to put pressure on member companies - particularly those in the banking, insurance, and energy industries - to decrease transactions with Iran. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Colombian authorities said Tuesday they broke up a drug and money-laundering ring in an international operation that included the capture of three people suspected of shipping funds to Hizbullah. Chekry Mahmoud Harb, Ali Mohamad Abdul Rahim and Zacaria Hussein Harb used front companies to send drug cash to Hizbullah, the Columbian attorney general's office said. Washington has often complained that Iran-backed Hizbullah and other Islamic terrorist groups are active in Arab communities in South American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela. (Reuters)
Saudi money is being pumped into the Shi'ite community in south Lebanon - in vain - to create a bloc against Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The Saudis are reportedly funding a rival wing of Hizbullah itself, modeled around Sheikh Subhi Tufayli, one of the party's original founders. The Saudis are strongly opposed to Hizbullah, claiming it is an extension of Iranian influence in the Arab world. The Saudis have also begun coordinating with former Syrian vice president Abdul-Halim Khaddam to break Hizbullah's influence in Lebanon. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
Hamas is receiving a steady revenue by licensing illicit tunnels in Gaza's south to smugglers and business people who are importing fuel and other items from Egypt. Hundreds of tents covering entrances to tunnels - big enough to transport everything from cows to industrial-size air-conditioners - have mushroomed along Gaza's border with Egypt. Many tunnels are also rigged with plastic pipes, siphoning Egypt's heavily subsidized fuel. One Gaza fuel station operator reported that by selling Egyptian fuel rather than Israeli fuel his profit was ten times greater.
Smuggling has become a lucrative and entrenched part of the economy. Omar Shaban, a Gaza economist, estimates that smuggling comprises about 90% of market activity. "The tunnels are integrated into the economy." Last month, Hamas began charging tunnel owners a 10,000-shekel annual license fee. (Guardian-UK)
See also Palestinians Smuggle Cattle Through Gaza Tunnels (Reuters/New York Times)
Saudi Arabia has put 991 al-Qaeda suspects on trial for participation in a wave of terror in 2003-4 until an official crackdown ended the attacks. Most of the suspects have languished in prison since then. In the wake of the 2003 Iraq war, al-Qaeda launched a concerted effort to destabilize Saudi Arabia. More than 30 attacks took place in which 164 were killed. The last major terrorist incident was a failed attempt to blow up the Abqaiq oil facility, the world's largest refinery complex, in January 2006. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
After meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said: "We would like to see some action taken by Arab countries, which do not have relations with Israel, to establish ties with it." (DPA/Ha'aretz)
Hizbullah MP Hassan Hoballah on Tuesday rejected any form of negotiations with Israel amid reports that Israeli Foreign Ministry officials are exploring the possibility of signing a non-aggression pact with Lebanon. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel that struck near Nativ Ha'asara on Tuesday evening, in violation of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
As the price of oil roared to ever higher levels in recent years, the leaders of Iran muscled their way onto the world stage, using checkbook diplomacy and, on occasion, intimidation. Now, plummeting oil prices are raising questions about whether Iran can sustain its spending - and its bid to challenge U.S. hegemony. Iran extended its influence across the Middle East, promoted itself as the leader of the Islamic world and used its petrodollars to help defy the West's efforts to block its nuclear program. But such ambitions are harder to finance when oil is at $74.25 a barrel, its closing price Monday in New York, than when it is at $147, its price as recently as three months ago.
"The drop in oil prices will make the Iranian regime re-examine its calculations because its political immunity is less," said Mustafa El-Labbad, director of the East Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "Their regional presence and role will shrink." The International Monetary Fund said in August that Iran would face unsustainable deficits should prices for its oil fall to $75 a barrel. (New York Times)
The ultraconservative Salafi Islamic movement has grown dramatically across the Middle East in recent years. Critics worry that the rise of Salafists in Egypt, as well as in other Arab countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, will crowd out the more liberal and tolerant version of Islam long practiced there. They also warn that the doctrine is only a few shades away from that of violent groups like al-Qaeda - that it effectively preaches "Yes to jihad, just not now."
Saudi preachers on satellite TV and the Internet have been key to Salafism's spread. Salafism preaches strict segregation of the sexes and resists any innovation in religion or adoption of Western ways seen as immoral. In most of the region, Salafism has been a purely social movement calling for an ultraconservative lifestyle. Most Salafis shun politics. Its preachers often glorify martyrdom and jihad or holy war - but always with the caveat that Muslims should not launch jihad until their leaders call for it. Critics of Salafism say it has spread so quickly in part because the Egyptian and Saudi governments encouraged it as an apolitical, nonviolent alternative to hard-line jihadi groups. (AP/USA Today)
To be a practicing Muslim in the Xinjiang autonomous region of northwestern China is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.
Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, accounting for 46% of the population of 19 million, and the Chinese government worries about separatist activity in the region. A series of attacks in August left at least 22 security officers and one civilian dead in the biggest wave of violence in Xinjiang since the 1990s. (New York Times)
U.S. Military Report: Terms "Jihad," "Islamist" Are Needed - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
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Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.