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May 1, 2009

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Italy Frees Hijacker of Achille Lauro Ship (AP)
    One of the Palestinians who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and killed an American passenger in 1985 has been released after 23 years in jail, officials said Thursday.
    Youssef Magied al-Molqui was convicted of shooting elderly New Yorker Leon Klinghoffer and ordering him to be dumped in the sea while in his wheelchair.
    Al-Molqui, a member of the four-man team that hijacked the Achille Lauro off the Egyptian coast, had been serving a 30-year sentence, which was reduced for good behavior.

Al-Qaeda Sleeper Agent in U.S. Pleads Guilty - Carrie Johnson (Washington Post)
    Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, 43, a sleeper agent who arrived in the U.S. a day before Sept. 11, 2001, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring with al-Qaeda operatives.
    The Qatari national attended terrorist training camps between 1998 and 2001, and was approached in 2001 by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, an operations chief for al-Qaeda, about assisting al-Qaeda operations in the U.S.
    Marri was instructed by Mohammed to arrive in the U.S. no later than Sept. 10, 2001, with an understanding that he was to remain in the country for an undetermined length of time.
    An almanac that investigators recovered from his home "was bookmarked at pages showing dams, waterways and tunnels in the United States, consistent with al-Qaeda attack planning regarding the use of cyanide gases," according to a statement of facts accompanying Marri's plea deal.

Fort Dix Terror Plotters Sentenced - Donna Miles (American Forces Press Service)
    The last of five defendants found guilty in a terror plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J., were sentenced Wednesday, with four to serve the rest of their lives behind bars and one sentenced to 33 years in prison.
    The five men, all Muslim immigrants, were arrested in Cherry Hill, N.J., in May 2007.

British Forces Leave Iraq - Kevin Sullivan (Washington Post)
    British combat operations in Iraq formally ended Thursday after a six-year mission that cost the lives of 179 British troops.

Police Crack Down on Caribbean Drug Ring with Ties to Hizbullah (AFP/Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Police from seven countries arrested 17 people in the island of Curacao Tuesday suspected of involvement in an international drug ring with links to Hizbullah, Dutch authorities said.
    "The organization had international contacts with other criminal networks that financially supported Hizbullah in the Middle East. Large sums of drug money flooded into Lebanon, from where orders were placed for weapons that were to have been delivered from South America," the Dutch prosecution service said in a statement.

German Sold Rocket Material to Iran (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    A German businessman has confessed to selling Iran 16 tons of graphite, used to make rocket nozzles, in violation of a 2007 ban on such exports, a German court spokesman said Wednesday.

Israeli Army Singing Group Banned in Britain - Chris Irvine (Telegraph-UK)
    Five soldiers, aged 19, from an Israel Defense Forces education unit were banned from performing a medley of songs at the Bloomsbury Theatre as part of a celebration for their country's 61st anniversary by University College London, which claimed the content was "political."

Huntsville, Alabama, Facility Shares Israeli Missile Test Success (Huntsville Times)
    Huntsville workers had a hand in building a missile that shot down a ballistic missile target in a test of Israel's national missile defense system.
    The operationally realistic test, conducted recently in Israel by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, used an Arrow II interceptor missile co-produced by Boeing of Huntsville and Israel Aerospace Industries.
    "This successful test underscores the effectiveness of the cooperative relationship we have forged with IAI on the Arrow program and other international missile defense initiatives," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.
    Boeing's Huntsville facilities provide several Arrow II interceptor components, including part of the avionics and guidance subsystem, the nose cone, the canister assembly that houses the interceptor, electrical subsystems and motor cases.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates: Military Options Against Iran Would Only Provide Temporary, Ineffective Fix - Lolita C. Baldor
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the military option for forcing Iran to halt its nuclear program would be just temporary and ineffective and that sanctions make more sense. Gates told the Senate Thursday that a military attack on Iran would merely send that country's nuclear program further underground. Instead, he said that the U.S. and its allies must convince Tehran that its nuclear ambitions will spark an arms race that will leave the country less secure. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. should work with its allies on tougher international sanctions. Gates also said that the U.S. should pursue partnerships with Russia on missile defense programs in the region to further isolate Iran and to give Tehran economic and diplomatic reasons to voluntarily abandon its nuclear interests. (AP/Newsday)
  • U.S.: Iran Remains Most Active State Sponsor of Terrorism
    Iran remains the "most active state sponsor of terrorism" in the world, the U.S. government charged Thursday. Iran was lumped with Syria, Sudan and Cuba as terrorism sponsors in the State Department Terrorism Report for 2008. "Iran's involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy," it said. The Qods Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gave "weapons, training and funding" to Hamas and other Palestinian anti-Israeli groups, Lebanon's Shiite Muslim fundamentalist Hizbullah, as well as Iraq-based militants and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. (AFP)
        See also below Observations - Country Reports on Terrorism 2008: Foreign Terrorist Organizations (U.S. State Department)
  • Turkish-Syrian Military Cooperation - Lale Sariibrahamoglu
    While recent joint Turkish-Syrian land exercises have irked Israel, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug said Wednesday: "We are not interested in Israel's reaction." He explained that while they are small-scale exercises, they are important since they are the first of their kind conducted jointly by the neighboring countries. However, Gen. Basbug stated that the exercises are not directed against third parties. The Turkish military's senior-level participation at the Israeli Independence Day reception in Ankara on April 28 also signaled that the Turkish Armed Forces is not at odds with Israel. (Zaman-Turkey)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Clinton: No Possibility of Funding Hamas - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected reports that the Obama administration will agree to transfer funds to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas members. "There is no possibility of funding Hamas," Clinton told the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. "What we have said is that if there were to be, which at this moment seems highly unlikely, a unity government that consisted of the Palestinian Authority members from Fatah and any members from Hamas, the government itself plus every member of the government would have to commit to the Quartet principles," Clinton added. "Namely, they must renounce violence, they must recognize Israel and they must agree to abide by the former PLO and Palestinian Authority agreements." "That has been our policy, and that is what we have told our partners in Europe and elsewhere, which is why we've been very hesitant and quite unconvinced about any efforts to create a unity government," she said. (Ynet News)
  • Israel: World Bank Report on West Bank Water Distorts Facts
    Israel on Tuesday rejected allegations by the World Bank of a disproportionate division of water with the Palestinians. Israel has fulfilled all its obligations under the water agreement with the Palestinians, and has even extensively surpassed the obligatory quantity. According to paragraph 40 of the Israel-Palestinian interim agreement, 23.6 million cubic meters of water are to be allocated to the Palestinians annually. In actual effect, they have access to twice as much water.
        The Palestinians, on the other hand, have significantly violated their commitments under the water agreement, specifically regarding illegal drilling (they have drilled over unauthorized 250 wells) and handling of sewage (they allow the sewage to flow into streams, polluting both the environment and groundwater).
        The authors of the report met with Israeli officials and were briefed on all the factual details. Yet they chose to rely totally on unsubstantiated information supplied by the PA, which raises serious questions over the credibility of the report and the intentions of its authors. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Five Israeli Arabs Charged in Terror Plot - Dan Izenberg
    Five Israeli Arabs were charged on Thursday with belonging to a terrorist organization that planned to kidnap IDF soldiers and detonate bombs. According to the indictment, the cell's leader, Abdullah Haruba of Mughar, began corresponding with a Palestinian from Gaza nicknamed "Abu Kassam" in November 2008. Haruba told his interrogators he had the impression Abu Kassam belonged to Islamic Jihad. Haruba began learning how to make explosives from instructions prepared by various terrorist groups, including Fatah's al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades. He prepared a makeshift bomb and two makeshift pistols, which were later discovered in his home. According to police, eight other bombs were discovered in the village of Barta'a. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Terror Plot Was in Advanced Stage - Yaakov Lappin
    Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Elgrisi said the cell had filmed its preparations. In one exercise a cell member had pretended to be an IDF soldier while the remainder of the group practiced abducting him. "They also threw an explosive device and detonated it to test its impact. They had completed a process of training themselves. They were close to an attack - the cell had the motivation and the means. All they had to do was pick a date," Elgrisi said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Disrupting Tehran's Export of Technology and Weapons - Matthew Levitt
    In recent years there have been a number of incidents involving Iranian efforts to transport military materiel and arms by sea, land, and air to its allies and surrogates. During the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel war, Israeli intelligence claimed that Iran was resupplying the Shiite movement via Turkey. Such claims gained credibility in May 2007, when a train derailed by PKK terrorists in southeastern Turkey was found to be carrying undeclared Iranian rockets and small arms destined for Syria - probably for transshipment to Hizbullah. Iran has emerged as a major arms supplier for Hamas in Gaza, as well as for anti-American governments in South America.
        These episodes underscore Iran's growing emergence as a supplier of military materiel, equipment, and arms for radical Islamist and anti-American allies in the Middle East and beyond. For that reason, it is increasingly important to establish a comprehensive regime to constrain Iran's ability to transfer military materiel and arms, especially if Iran were to market its nuclear technology abroad. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Throwing the Book at Tehran - Michael Jacobson
    There has been an increase in the number and scale of U.S. law enforcement investigations targeting Iran's illicit activities. This is related to the growing prioritization of Iran by all arms of the U.S. government. As the Bush administration highlighted the growing threat posed by Iran, all of the relevant government agencies - including law enforcement entities - began exploring what they could bring to this effort. Another factor is the expanded U.S. government authority in the area of sanctions, courtesy of the October 2007 International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act. The act increased penalties for violating sanctions, raising the possible civil fines from $50,000 to $250,000 or twice the value of the transaction (whichever is higher), and the criminal penalties from $50,000 to $1 million. To make a broader impact, the Obama administration must persuade other key countries involved in trade with Iran to adopt a similarly aggressive approach. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hizbullah's Struggle to Change the Lebanese Regime - Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira and Yair Minzili
    On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of elections to the Lebanese parliament scheduled for June 7, 2009. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in Lebanon. In this manner, Hizbullah seeks to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 that has been preserved by the Lebanese state ever since. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.
        The scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated? (Note: The English text of the 2009 Hizbullah platform appears at the end of this essay.) (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On Reconciliation with the Palestinians - An Interview with Historian Benny Morris - Evan R. Goldstein
    In his new book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Benny Morris, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University, argues that the Palestinian national movement has never in fact reconciled itself to Israel's existence as a Jewish state. "Morris is a one-man microcosm of what many Israeli Jews of the Labor-Zionist strain have undergone in the past decade," says David B. Green, opinion editor at Ha'aretz's English edition. "They recognize that we're not on the verge of peace, that this conflict may not be resolvable, and that they were naive to think that was the case."
        Morris's optimism was shattered in 2000 when Yasir Arafat rejected Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton's two-state proposals. "Not only did they say no, but they launched a terroristic and guerrilla war against both the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel itself, suggesting that they are not just after the territories but want to drive the Jews out of Palestine," Morris says. Referring to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, he said, "The moment Israel pulled out from a chunk of Arab territory, as the Arabs have always been demanding, it turned into a base for rocket attacks."
        "Talk to any Palestinian; they don't know about the Jewish past, and Jewish suffering doesn't interest them," he says. "They believe that Jews have no legitimate right [to] be here. That belief underlines their vision that Palestine must be all Arab and must be regained by them down the road." "The peace camp has been tragically undermined by Arab recalcitrance. When an Israeli politician campaigns on a plan to broker a two-state solution, the Israeli public is no longer interested because they know the other side doesn't want it. So they vote for Netanyahu or someone else who speaks in terms of conflict management rather than solutions."
        On Iran, Morris says: "Iran is building atomic weapons at least in part - maybe in large part - because it intends to use them. The people there are religious fanatics....Israel is under existential threat, and that is how Israel's military and political leaders must see the situation." (Foreign Policy)
  • IDF Officer Outlines Israeli Military Ethics in Gaza - Debra Rubin
    Imagine you are a soldier in the field when a suspected suicide bomber comes at you. Should you shoot or not? "Eight seconds - that's all you have to decide," said Col. Bentzi Gruber, a reserve commander in the Israel Defense Forces. Speaking April 22 to a group of Rutgers University students, Gruber showed actual films from the recent Gaza operation. The students saw cars loaded with explosives detonating, secret tunnels, and booby-trapped houses. Gruber also showed Gazans grabbing and using children as shields as they run across streets. "They do this because they know we won't shoot," said Gruber, who outlined how the IDF strives to minimize civilian casualties even in the middle of war. "We won't do it. A Palestinian kid and a Jewish kid are the same thing to me."
        If a pilot spots a terrorist in a taxi with four children, he said, "we won't shoot even if this terrorist killed 10 people yesterday and four soldiers today. We will wait and find him another day." Gruber used footage of a man with a rocket launcher on a crowded street as another example of a non-shooting situation because of the potential danger to innocent civilians. These policies have held down collateral damage to civilians to rates far below that of U.S. forces in Iraqi hotspots like Fallujah, according to Gruber.
        "If Tijuana started to launch rockets into Los Angeles, how long do you think it would take the U.S. Army to respond - three days, three months, three years? How about three seconds?" By contrast, Israel suffered more than three years of missile attacks in the south before launching the Gaza initiative. Palestinians also use ambulances, schools, mosques, and homes to hide caches of weapons and launch rockets and as hiding places for fighters, he said. He showed film of terrorists climbing into an ambulance as he instructed the audience to count with him. He stopped the film as the seventh armed man climbed in. (New Jersey Jewish News)
  • Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut - William Marling
    A professor at the American University in Beirut recently ordered copies of The Diary of Anne Frank for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music. This is ironic because Beirut has been named UNESCO's 2009 "World Book Capital City." Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron's Sophie's Choice; Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List; Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned. All of Jane Fonda's films are banned, since she visited Israel in 1982 to court votes for Tom Hayden's Senate run. The writer, a visiting professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, is professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. (Wall Street Journal)
  • 144 Israeli Children Murdered by Terrorists Since October 2000 - Frimet Roth
    Our daughter Malki was murdered at age 15 in the August 2001 terror attack on Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria. 144 innocent Israeli children have been murdered over the past eight years, targeted while they played, ate, studied, hiked or rode buses to and from school. Not one of those children was armed, not one was caught in soldiers' crossfire, not one was used as a human shield. This number explains the checkpoints, the security fence, the arrests, and even the Gaza operation - all of which have ignited venomous vilification of Israel. Against the backdrop of our murdered children, Israel's conduct can fairly be viewed as not only justified, but unavoidable. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranians Outwit Net Censors - John Markoff
    The Iranian government, more than almost any other, censors what citizens can read online, using elaborate technology to block millions of Web sites offering news, commentary, videos, music and, until recently, Facebook and YouTube. Search for "women" in Persian and you're told, "Dear Subscriber, access to this site is not possible." Last July, a computer program allowing Iranian Internet users to evade government censorship appeared, and by late autumn more than 400,000 Iranians were surfing the uncensored Web. The software was created not by Iranians, but by Chinese computer experts volunteering for the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement suppressed by the Chinese government. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Country Reports on Terrorism 2008: Foreign Terrorist Organizations (U.S. State Department)

    • Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade - Loose cells of Palestinian militants loyal to, but not under the direct control of, the Fatah movement. In 2008, the majority of al-Aqsa attacks were rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel from Hamas-ruled Gaza. Current strength - a few hundred. Iran has exploited al-Aqsa's lack of resources and formal leadership by providing funds and other aid, mostly through Hizbullah facilitators.
    • Hamas - Includes military and political wings and was formed in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The armed element, called the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, conducts anti-Israeli attacks, including suicide bombings against civilian targets inside Israel. Hamas also manages a broad, mostly Gaza-based network of "Dawa" activities that include charities, schools, clinics, youth camps, fund-raising, and political activities. A Shura council based in Damascus, Syria, sets overall policy. Hamas has several thousand operatives in the al-Qassam Brigades, along with its 9,000-man Executive Force. Hamas has an operational presence in every major city in the Palestinian territories and could potentially activate operations in Lebanon. Hamas is increasing its presence in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon with the goal of eclipsing Fatah's long-time dominance there and seizing control of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hamas receives some funding, weapons, and training from Iran.
    • Hizbullah - This Lebanese-based radical Shia group takes its ideological inspiration from the Iranian revolution and follows the religious guidance of the late Ayatollah Khomeini's successor, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Hizbullah is closely allied with Iran and often acts at its behest. Hizbullah also has helped Syria advance its political objectives in the region. Since at least 2004, Hizbullah has provided training to Iraqi Shia militants, including in the construction and use of shaped charge IEDs that can penetrate heavily-armored vehicles, which it developed in southern Lebanon in the late 1990s. A senior Hizbullah operative, Ali Mussa Daqduq, was captured in Iraq in 2007 while facilitating Hizbullah training of Iraqi Shia militants.
    • Palestine Islamic Jihad - Committed to the creation of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including present day Israel, and the destruction of Israel through attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets. In April 2008 alone, PIJ fired 216 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at various Israeli towns in southern Israel. The group's senior leadership resides in Syria. It receives financial assistance and training primarily from Iran.

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