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February 4, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Calls for War Against "Zionist-Crusader Coalition"  (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri dismissed U.S. President Barack Obama's expression of concern over deaths in Gaza as an empty gesture on Tuesday and said Washington remains a main enemy of Muslims.
    "I remind our mujahideen brothers that our enemy in Gaza is not only Israel but the Zionist-crusader coalition, with America, the leader of its head," he said in an audio recording posted on Islamic websites.
    "The Zionist-crusader campaign against Islam and the Muslims cannot be defeated without warfare," Zawahri said, calling the devout to join a jihad.

Obama to Keep Bush Official Involved with Iran Sanctions - Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times)
    Stuart Levey, Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will remain in his post, Obama administration officials have said.
    Levey has overseen an effort to dissuade international banks from dealing with Iranian government agencies and firms that U.S. officials believe support terrorism or help defy UN resolutions on nuclear nonproliferation.
    The move signals that Obama will continue to aggressively pressure Tehran, even as he offers engagement.

Rehabilitated Saudi Terrorists Return to Jihad - Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    Eleven Saudis who were released from Guantanamo and then passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists have fled the country and joined terrorist groups abroad, Saudi officials said Tuesday.
    Their names were on a list of 85 wanted terrorism suspects made public Tuesday by the Saudi Interior Ministry.
    See also Can You Deprogram a Jihadist? - Susan Mohammad (Macleans-Canada)

Terror Financing Trial Underway in Sweden (The Local-Sweden)
    Proceedings began on Monday in Malmo to determine whether or not donations to the al-Aqsa Spannmal, the Swedish branch of the al-Aqsa Foundation, were being used to support Hamas.
    The foundation has collected more than 4 million kronor ($476,000) which it contends is used to help support Palestinian orphans and other humanitarian efforts. But prosecutors allege that al-Aqsa funds were sent to Hamas.
    "The case isn't about taking a stance in the conflict, but about the fact that Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the EU," said prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstrom.

The Gaza War: A Strategic Analysis - Anthony H. Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
    This analysis reveals impressive improvements in the readiness and capability of the Israel Defense Forces since the fighting against Hizbullah in 2006.
    It also indicates that Israel did not violate the laws of war. It did deliberately use decisive force to enhance regional deterrence and demonstrate that it had restored its military edge. These, however, are legitimate military objectives in spite of their very real humanitarian costs.
    Yet the post-conflict situation looks strikingly like the situation before the fighting began.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Concerned Over Iranian Satellite Launch
    State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Tuesday, "Iran's ongoing efforts to develop its missile delivery capabilities remain a matter of deep concern. Recently, Iran's development of a space launch vehicle (SLV) capable of putting a satellite into orbit establishes the technical basis from which Iran could develop long-range ballistic missile systems. Many of the technological building blocks involved in SLVs are the same as those required to develop long-range ballistic missiles. Working with the United Nations, we have passed a number of UN Security Council Resolutions, including Resolution 1737, which require states to take the necessary measures to prevent the supply of, inter alia, specified equipment and technology that could contribute to Iran's development of nuclear weapons delivery systems."  (State Department)
        See also France "Worried" about Iran Satellite Launch
    France is concerned that the technology used to launch satellites can be used to deliver warheads. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
        See also NATO Officer: Europe Could Be within Iranian Missile Range
    Iran's announcement, if true, would confirm that it has missiles capable of striking Israel and southeast Europe, a NATO officer said Tuesday. (AFP/SpaceWar)
  • Clinton: Mitchell Visit Begins "Diplomatic Force Projection" in the Middle East
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called special envoy George Mitchell's visit to the Middle East "diplomatic force projection" and "the first of what will be an ongoing, high level of engagement by Senator Mitchell on behalf of myself and the President. We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, create an independent and viable Palestinian state in both the West Bank and Gaza, and provide Israel with the peace and security that it has sought." Mitchell said he was planning to "establish a regular and sustained presence in the region."
        When asked about a diplomatic path to Hamas, Clinton noted, "We have a very clear policy toward Hamas, and Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth. They must renounce violence. They must recognize Israel. And they must agree to abide by prior agreements that were entered into by the Palestinian Authority....Our conditions with respect to Hamas have not and will not change." "Hamas knows that it must stop the rocket fire into Israel. There were rockets yesterday, there were rockets this morning. And it is very difficult to ask any nation to do anything other than defend itself in the wake of that kind of consistent attack." (State Department)
  • Ahmadinejad Predecessor Khatami Planning Iranian Presidential Bid - Thomas Erdbrink
    Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who held office from 1997 to 2005, has decided to run in the June 12 elections against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aides said Tuesday. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Responds to Gaza Rocket Fire, Targets Smuggling Tunnels - Yanir Yagana
    Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt on Tuesday after a rocket launched from Gaza struck the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Residents of the Gaza border town of Rafah said on Tuesday they had received telephone messages warning them to leave their homes ahead of the impending air strike. (Ha'aretz)
  • The War Crimes Fiction - Yehuda Ben Meir
    The use of the terms "war crime" or "crime against humanity" in connection with Israel's act of self-defense against an armed terrorist organization acting from an area crowded with civilians is not only a distortion of the truth, it is also a moral perversion of the first order. People who say international law was violated during the Gaza operation are the ones using international law cynically for purposes that have nothing to do with concerns about the morality of warfare. The true moral question is who is the aggressor and who has implemented the right to self-defense. President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan to spare the lives of American soldiers; the justification for this was anchored in the fact that Japan was responsible for the war.
        Of course it must be regretted that women and children were killed. But the responsibility for all the killing and suffering is solely that of the aggressor, Hamas. No civilian who was harmed is weighing on the Israeli conscience. This is the truth that lets us walk with our heads high. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Talking to the Mullahs - Michael Ledeen
    Last fall, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked on the many failed efforts by the U.S. to reach some sort of modus vivendi with the Iranian regime. Every administration since 1979 has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed. There is no reason to believe that the Iranians are interested in anything other than our destruction or domination. Which is not to say they won't talk. They love to talk, and they excel at talking, which they view quite differently from the way we look at "engagement" or "negotiations." The Iranians are quite capable of striking temporary deals with their worst enemies, fully intending to resume hostilities when circumstances are more favorable.
        Ken Pollack, former director of Persian Gulf affairs at the National Security Council, wrote: "In the Clinton Administration in 1999 and 2000, we tried very hard to put the grand bargain on the table....We made 12 separate gestures to Iran to try to demonstrate to them that...we were really willing to...put all of these big carrots on the table if the Iranians were willing to give us what we needed. And the Iranians couldn't." They couldn't, because hatred of America is the very essence of the Islamic Republic. If all we want to do is talk, they'll certainly talk. As the Iranians see it, if we're talking, they can continue to pursue their atomic bomb. The writer is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Pajamas Media)
  • How Not to Fund Hamas: Scrutinize Those Who Receive U.S. Aid - Matt Levitt
    On Friday, the U.S. government announced that President Obama has authorized the use of $20.3 million to address critical post-conflict humanitarian needs in Gaza. Under the system as it exists today, some or all of those funds could end up in Hamas coffers. By its very nature, USAID is focused more on dispersing aid than on vetting the organizations through which that aid is distributed on the ground. As a result, its record has been tainted by a series of awards to entities with established ties to terrorist groups, including Hamas-controlled charity committees and the Islamic University of Gaza.
        The necessary first step to fix all this is simple and long-overdue: a partner verification system. It would begin by requiring all applicants for USAID funding to submit identifying information on their principal officers and other employees. Then, meaningful traces would check these officers and employees not only against the full range of publicly available information but also against classified intelligence and law enforcement databases. The critical need to provide humanitarian aid in conflict zones must be balanced with the risk that terrorist groups will try to benefit from that aid. The writer directs the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Daily News)
  • Behind the Tensions in Israeli-Turkish Relations - Michael Reynolds
    In the post-9/11 shift in U.S. policy under George Bush from support of the status quo in the Middle East to revision of it through the toppling of multiple regimes, not a few Turks, including those in think tanks and the military, believed that the ultimate target of Operation Iraqi Freedom was not Middle Eastern despotism but the Turkish Republic. In the name of democracy, it was thought that the U.S. would detach Turkey's eastern provinces to form a Kurdish state. The belief that outside forces are steadily and consciously working to undermine Turkey and divide it is almost hard-wired in Turkish institutions.
        Suspicion also fell upon Israel, primarily because it was the country in the region closest to the U.S., but also because it was known to have cultivated ties to the Kurds of Iraq in the past. The writer, an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, is currently a visiting scholar at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
  • Observations:

    Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil - Judea Pearl (Wall Street Journal)

    • This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
    • Seven years later this ideology of barbarism is celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hizbullah and other heroes of "the resistance."
    • Another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, has spent his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.
    • Somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

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