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March 3, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran, Syria and Hizbullah Fear Security Penetration - Samuel Segev (Winnipeg Free Press-Canada)
    Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are more concerned about the penetration of their security systems by Israel and other intelligence services than they are about the outbreak of war.
    To their shock, a former Israeli intelligence source revealed this past weekend that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah's recent trip to Damascus was "totally monitored." "Israel could have eliminated Nasrallah on his way to Damascus, but it didn't want to," he said.
    No less embarrassing to Syria, Iran and Hizbullah was the revelation that former Hizbullah military chief Imad Mughniyeh's sudden death in a car bomb in Damascus in June 2008 was done with Jordanian intelligence assistance.
    In a posthumous video message posted on an al-Qaeda website last weekend, a Jordanian-Palestinian double agent who killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan a few months ago revealed that Jordan provided the intelligence for Mughniyeh's killing.

Dinner in Damascus: What Did Iran Ask of Hizbullah? - David Schenker and Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    On Feb. 26, just a week after the U.S. dispatched Undersecretary of State William Burns to Damascus and nominated its first new ambassador in five years, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah for a dinner in Damascus.
    During its most recent massive military buildup since the 2006 war with Israel, Hizbullah has procured an estimated 40,000 rockets and - with Syria's help - reportedly improved the quality of its arsenal.
    Syria may have provided the Russian-made shoulder-fired Igla antiaircraft system, which is capable of downing Israeli F-16s.

Tensions Rise between the PA and Tunisia - Kifah Zaboun (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the personal archive of Yasser Arafat, which is in Tunisia under the protection of Tunisian security, is a cause of tension, after Tunis refused a number of requests to hand the archive over to the Palestinian Authority.
    Israeli sources said, "Arafat's archive is a treasure trove of intelligence information about the heads of state of Arab and Islamic countries, and political, economic, military, and scientific figures in these countries. In addition to this [there is] information on high-ranking international figures and members of their family as well as information relating to Israel."
    The Israeli sources said that due to the high intelligence value of this archive, Arafat decided to leave it in Tunis for safekeeping away from the Israelis.
    Another reason for the strain in the relationship between the PA and Tunisia is the issue of a large number of Fatah cadres in Tunis having their wages cut.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Jerusalem Mayor Delays Development Plan - Ethan Bronner
    The mayor of Jerusalem agreed Tuesday to delay a plan to demolish some Palestinian homes to build a complex that would provide new apartments for the residents. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Mayor Nir Barkat to allow more time to reach an understanding with the residents of the neighborhood. Barkat has been negotiating with the Palestinians there, who are living in housing that is illegal under Israeli law. (New York Times)
        See also Jerusalem Mayor Discusses Development Plan for King's Garden in Jerusalem - Ronen Medzini
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat held a press conference Tuesday to discuss plans for the King's Garden/al-Bustan area, located south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Barkat said that the plan would benefit all residents. "The area's infrastructure will be upgraded. A neglected area will become a successful area. It will be a win-win situation for all."  (Ynet News)
        Some 88 buildings in the al-Bustan neighborhood were constructed without a permit in recent years. Barkat intended to grant permits retroactively to most, in exchange for demolishing 20 houses to make way for an archeological park. (Ynet News)
        In exchange, the evacuated residents will receive permits to rebuild up to four storeys high in the neighborhood's eastern section. (Ynet News)
        See also The King's Garden Development Plan - Mayor Nir Barkat (City of Jerusalem); View Powerpoint Presentation (City of Jerusalem)
  • Hamas and Pro-al-Qaeda Cells Set for More Conflict - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Hamas Islamists ruling Gaza face a growing security challenge from al-Qaeda-inspired Palestinian groups that have stepped up bombing attacks in recent weeks targeting Hamas security men and offices. Sources close to Salafi groups said fundamentalists set off three bombs in the Beach refugee camp last week near the heavily guarded home of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Sources described the blasts as a message to Haniyeh to stop an arrest campaign against their members, and said the people who placed the bombs were sympathizers among Haniyeh's guards. On Monday unknown assailants detonated a bomb underneath the car of a top Hamas police officer in Gaza.
        In January, a bomb destroyed a senior security official's jeep in Gaza. Last month, a senior Hamas commander in Rafah escaped injury in a bomb blast. Sources said the two officers were involved in "killing and torturing" Islamist fighters. (Reuters)
        See also Jihadi Upstarts a Threat to Hamas - Karin Laub (AP-Washington Times)
  • Muslim Cleric Issues Anti-Terror Fatwa
    Pakistan-born Muslim scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri has issued a 600-page fatwa in London which condemned terrorists as the enemies of Islam. He said, "They can't claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma (the wider Muslim community), no, they become heroes of hellfire....There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered Jihad."
        "Good intentions cannot convert a wrong into good, they cannot convert an evil into good," he said. "Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts." Dr. Qadri is the founder of the global Minhaj-ul-Quran movement. (UKPA)
        See also Suicide Bombers "Un-Islamic" and Going to Hell, Says Leading Cleric - Ruth Gledhill
    The Minhaj-ul-Quran movement follows Sufi teachings of peace and moderation, and advises the British government on how to combat radicalization in Muslim youth. Dr. Qadri is based in Canada. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Syria Transferring Advanced Weapons to Hizbullah - Amnon Meranda
    "Syria is handing over to Hizbullah components that it would not dare hand over before," the head of the IDF Military Intelligence research division, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Baidatz said Hizbullah "attempts to carry out a revenge attack for [slain commander Imad] Mugniyah's death, especially against Israeli targets abroad....Simultaneously, it continues to build up its strength for a confrontation against Israel, deploys its members broadly throughout south Lebanon but also deeper, and accumulates advanced weapons - long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-tank missiles - with Iran's and Syria's assistance."
        Baidatz also said that hopes for an imminent collapse of the ayatollah regime in Iran are premature. "The potential for something taking place within the Iranian population exists, but there's a great distance between the riots we saw and the regime's collapse," he said. "The Iranian regime is not about to collapse."  (Ynet News)
  • Jordan Jails Six for Plotting to Fight Israel During Gaza War
    Jordan's State Security Court on Tuesday handed down lengthy jail terms to six Jordanians convicted of planning attacks on Israeli troops during the Gaza operation in January 2009, judicial sources said. "All defendants plotted to leave Jordan illegally and join fighters in Gaza at the beginning of 2009," the indictment said. (DPA-Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Is No More Rogue than America - Andrew Roberts
    Is state-sanctioned assassination justifiable, or does it somehow delegitimize the state that undertakes it? All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war - and Israel's struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbullah certainly constitutes that - occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armory, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy.
        When Britain was at war, Winston Churchill sanctioned the assassination by its Special Operations Executive of the SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the capture (and killing if necessary) of General Heinrich Kreipe on Crete; ditto Erwin Rommel. Just as with some Mossad operations, such as the disaster in Amman in 1997 when agents were captured after failing to kill Khaled Meshal of Hamas, not all Churchill's hits were successful. But the British state was not delegitimized in any way as a result.
        More than six decades after the foundation of the State of Israel, there are still those who call the country's legitimacy into question, employing anything that happens to be in the news at the time to argue that Israel is not a real country, and therefore doesn't really deserve to exist. The reason that such double standards still apply is not because of the nature of that doughty, brave, embattled, tiny, surrounded, yet proudly defiant country, but because of the nature of its foes. Real rogue states such as North Korea might be loathed and criticized, but even they do not have their very legitimacy as a state called into question because of their actions. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Iran, Syria May Talk Big, But Will They Act? - Yoel Marcus
    The banquet at Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace last weekend for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is certainly in Iran's interest, but it is unclear whether it is in Syria's. Assad's regime is among those Iran would like to bring down. Assad is not only not Shi'ite, he is not religious.
        As for Ahmadinejad, he has a big mouth - he does not understand that the more he threatens us with a second Holocaust, the more he spurs Israel to build greater means of deterrence and increases its willingness to use them. The reasoning, as Ronen Bergman wrote last week in Yediot Ahronot, which won the day when former Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the bombing of the Iraqi reactor and by which the Syrian reactor was bombed, is that a country calling for the destruction of Israel must not be given the means to do so. Our deterrence is based on force and the willingness to use it in the face of a threat to our survival.
        Israel's reputation is built on deterrence. Iran, full of itself, could presume that we will not act or we will not be allowed to act. But good intelligence on their part can depend on precedents where we did act in similar circumstances. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Demography, Geopolitics, and the Future of Israel's Capital: Jerusalem's Proposed Master Plan - Nadav Shragai (Global Law Forum-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The aspiration to create and preserve a stable Jewish majority in the unified capital of the State of Israel has been the dream of the Jewish people over many generations.
    • Yet, the Jewish majority in Jerusalem is declining due to the mass migration of the Jewish population from Jerusalem, together with the migration of an additional Arab population into Jerusalem.
    • According to the proposed master plan for the city, the planned inventory of Jewish housing does not meet expected needs for 2020, while the planned inventory of Arab housing will suffice until at least 2030.
    • Lands earmarked on paper for expanding Jewish neighborhoods are Arab-owned, have unregistered ownership, and a minority are Jewish-owned. In the current political and diplomatic reality, it is not plausible that the state will expropriate land as it did in the past.
    • Furthermore, the proposed master plan will create urban contiguity between eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and Palestinian neighborhoods outside the city, reinforcing the Palestinian demand to recognize the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as a single political entity.
    • The demographic struggle for a Jewish majority in Jerusalem should be waged with an emphasis on staunching the emigration of Jews from the city. The steps required include building tens of thousands of housing units.

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