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May 5, 2010

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Probe in Failed Times Square Attack Focusing on Pakistani Taliban - Jerry Markon and Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
    U.S. federal investigators focused Tuesday on the possible involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in the failed Times Square bombing.
  Faisal Shahzad, 30, arrested Monday at Kennedy International Airport, admitted his involvement in the plot and told FBI agents he received bombmaking training in Pakistan.
    His confession, combined with a series of phone calls he received from Pakistan after purchasing the Nissan Pathfinder used in the attempted bombing, has led investigators to zero in on the Pakistani Taliban connection as "a leading theory," a federal law enforcement official said.
    Speaking at a news conference at which the government announced five felony counts against Shahzad, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, "It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country."

Report: Bin Laden Living Comfortably in Iran - Ed Barnes (FOX News)
    In a new documentary on falconers, Alan Parrot, the film's subject and one of the world's foremost falconers, makes a case that Bin Laden, an avid falcon hunter, has been living comfortably in Iran since at least 2003.
    Parrot was once the chief falconer for the Shah of Iran. One of his contacts, a warlord from the north of Iran, reveals in the film that he has met Bin Laden six times on hunting trips inside Iran since March 2003, with their last confirmed meeting in 2008.
    Parrot's story is supported in the documentary by former CIA agent Robert Baer.
    See also Evidence Mounts of Iran's Ties to al-Qaeda - Kenneth R. Timmerman (Washington Times)
    According to the Pentagon's first annual report to Congress on Iran's military capabilities and intentions, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the Revolutionary Guards to provide weapons and training to the Taliban and other Sunni Muslim groups, despite the conventional wisdom that such cooperation was impossible because of sectarian differences with Shiite Iran.
    Recently, a U.S. defense contractor was asked to compile a public source report on Iran's support for Sunni terrorist groups. The report, called "Dawn of Jihad," was so explosive that its contents were classified immediately even though the report's author, a retired U.S. military officer, had not drawn on classified sources.
    The report demonstrated that the ties between Iran's current leaders to Sunni terrorist groups go back to the 1970s, years before the Iranian revolution, when Ahmad Khomeini (the son of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) and other revolutionaries trained in Lebanon with various PLO factions.
    The Sept. 11 commission came upon a ream of NSA intercepts detailing the travels to Iran of 8 to 10 of the "muscle" 9/11 hijackers between October 2000 and February 2001 and concluded: "We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Tries to Mend Fences with American Jews - Helene Cooper
    President Obama had lunch on Tuesday with Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, as part of an effort to mend fences with American Jews upset by the administration's stance against Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The meeting came three weeks after Wiesel took out a full-page advertisement in U.S. newspapers criticizing the Obama administration for pressuring Prime Minister Netanyahu. The White House effort is part of an attempt to reach out to the Israeli public, as well as to the American Jewish community, administration officials said.
        Wiesel pronounced recent tensions between Washington and Israel to be over. "There were moments of tension," Wiesel said to reporters after the lunch. "The tension, I think, is gone."  (New York Times)
  • When Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Resume, Israel Plans to Highlight Incitement - Joshua Mitnick
    When U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume this month, Israel is planning to highlight claims of demonization of Israel and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that progress on incitement would be a "crucial'' issue in peace negotiations. "This is a very high priority for us,'' he said. "It's a Palestinian obligation in the framework of the peace process. It's a litmus test as to the seriousness of the Palestinian side as to their readiness to peace and reconciliation.''  (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Israeli Cabinet to Discuss Incitement-Monitoring - Herb Keinon
    Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday is scheduled to discuss a new mechanism to monitor Palestinian incitement. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, will report on a new "incitement index" that will monitor and quantify incitement on a regular basis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Palestinians Stalling Start of Proximity Peace Talks - Barak Ravid
    A senior official in Jerusalem said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his team had made all necessary preparations to jump-start the peace process, and were ready to open the proximity talks at a meeting Wednesday with special U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell. However, a source in the U.S. administration said the Palestinian announcement of agreement to begin proximity talks will come only on Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Meridor: Talks Won't "Yield Results" - Herb Keinon
    Israeli Deputy Premier Dan Meridor, a member of the seven-minister inner cabinet, told the Jerusalem Post Tuesday that indirect talks with the Palestinians would lead nowhere. Meridor, who is in charge of intelligence and atomic affairs, said he was afraid the Palestinians were trying to avoid making "tough decisions," by maneuvering the U.S. and the world into imposing a solution to the conflict. No one, he said, not the U.S., the EU or the UN, can decide "for us that French Hill [in northeast Jerusalem] is Palestine, or Ma'ale Adumim [east of the capital] is Palestine. They cannot do that. We need to come to an agreement." And this agreement, Meridor said, will only come through direct negotiations.
        Because of a failure of the Palestinian leadership to make the tough decisions needed to "end the conflict" - such as acknowledgement that Palestinian refugees would not be allowed to return to Israel, or the acceptance of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one - Meridor said he was skeptical of the likelihood of getting an agreement within a short time. Therefore, alongside negotiations, what is needed in parallel is to continue with Netanyahu's bottom-up approach that includes building more institutions for the future Palestinian state, and improving both the economy and law and order in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: The Search for Peace and Security - Dan Meridor (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Military Intelligence: Hizbullah Scuds Tip of Iceberg - Amnon Meranda
    The head of the IDF Military Intelligence research department, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday: "Weapons are transferred to Hizbullah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Therefore, it should not be called smuggling of arms to Lebanon - it is an organized and official transfer." He added that "the transfer of long-range missiles that was recently published is only the tip of the iceberg." "Today, Hizbullah has an arsenal of thousands of rockets of all types and ranges, including long-range solid-fuel rockets and more precise rockets....The long-range missiles in Hizbullah's possession enable them to fix their launch areas deep inside Lebanon, and they cover longer, larger ranges than what we have come across in the past. Hizbullah of 2006 is different from Hizbullah of 2010 in terms its military capabilities, which have developed significantly."
        On the Palestinian front, he assessed that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "is interested in an agreement with Israel, but his range of flexibility on the core issues is limited....We do not recognize in Abbas a true attempt for flexibility on the fundamental issues, and he is expected to come with the same position that existed in talks with the previous government. Abbas is preparing the ground for these talks to fail."  (Ynet News)
        See also Syria Gave Advanced M600 Rockets to Hizbullah - Jonathan Lis and Amos Harel
    Syria has delivered advanced solid-fueled M600 rockets to Hizbullah in Lebanon within the past year, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday. The M600, a Syrian copy of the Iranian Fateh-110, has a range of 300 km and carries a half-ton warhead. It would be capable of hitting Tel Aviv if fired from southern Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
  • Axelrod: Jerusalem Last Item on Agenda - Hilary Leila Krieger
    White House senior adviser David Axelrod told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Jerusalem will likely be the final issue addressed in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "Jerusalem as an issue can't be the first issue for negotiations. It probably will be the last," Axelrod said, characterizing the position of President Obama. Other White House officials have said that the U.S. never meant to make an issue of Jerusalem at this point in the process. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • From Peshawar to Times Square - Editorial
    Monday night's arrest of suspected Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad is proof that the world's jihadists are still targeting the U.S. The bombing attempt is also a timely reminder that all the talk about the war on terror being over is nonsense. Astute police work foiled last year's plot to bomb New York's subway, as it did similar planned attacks against a New York synagogue and a Dallas skyscraper. But it was only luck that saved the passengers aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The reality is that plots against the U.S. continue to be hatched and inspired in places like Pakistan and Yemen. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israelis and Palestinians Are Ready to Begin Talking - Sort Of - Editorial
    Indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians appear finally set to begin, after a two-month delay that showed the Obama administration's diplomacy at its worst. The trouble started with an errant announcement by Israel of new housing construction in East Jerusalem; President Obama chose to escalate what could have been a blip into a public quarrel, in the apparent hope of extracting a series of concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The tactic failed.
        Israel has made it clear that substantive progress cannot take place until the two sides begin talking to each other directly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemingly wants to postpone that day as long as possible. He has insisted on indirect talks even though he has participated in direct negotiations with Israeli leaders for two decades; in 2008, he refused to take up a far-reaching peace offer from former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The Palestinian leader now appears to be counting on the Obama administration to do his negotiating. The Obama administration should recognize that blunt pressure on Israel won't produce a Middle East deal. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Skewed Focus: U.S. Proposal for a Mideast Nuclear Weapons Ban - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington and Cairo were negotiating a proposal to turn the Middle East into "a region free of nuclear weapons." Considering the fact that Israel is, reportedly, the only country in the Middle East with a nuclear capability, this would mean that the U.S. had agreed to discuss with Egypt putting pressure on Israel to disarm itself of nuclear warheads.
    • The dangerous impression being created is of a nuclear-capable Israel being equated with a nuclear-capable Iran - an approach that fails to make the distinction between Israel, the Middle East's only democracy, and Iran, a despotic regime run by rapacious Shi'ite fanatics that openly persecutes homosexuals, promotes misogyny, brutally puts down political protest and shammed its last elections.
    • Not many fair-minded people, including in this region, have lost sleep over the fact that responsible Israel reportedly has nuclear warheads. Much of this region is profoundly panicked by the specter of a nuclear Iran.
    • If we take Ahmadinejad's statements at face value, and there is no reason why we should not, he wants to "wipe Israel off the map," and to focus, too, on the "big Satan" America. Instead of allowing Egypt to sidetrack it with talk of disarming Israel, the U.S. should focus on galvanizing the international community to stop Iran.

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