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October 7, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Behind the Terror Alerts - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
    Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have been working to penetrate the defenses that were created after Sept. 11, 2001.
    The recent case of Aafia Siddiqui suggests the seriousness of the threat. She was sentenced Sept. 23 in a New York federal court to 86 years in prison for shooting Americans who attempted to interrogate her.
    Born in Karachi, she majored in biology at MIT and earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis. In 2003 she married a nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
    When Siddiqui was arrested in Afghanistan, she was carrying documents in her handwriting that said: "A mass casualty attack...NY City monuments: Empire State Bld., Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.," "Dirty Bomb: Need few oz. radioactive material."
    She was also carrying a computer flash drive that included the rumination: "Can go into supermarkets and randomly inject fruits with poisons, as well as other items that are usually eaten raw."
    Lest anyone think she was simply a fantasist, she was caught carrying two pounds of sodium cyanide, which can be used as an explosive.

Russia and China Play Cyberwar - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
    The Russians were responsible for what were, before Stuxnet, the two most famous CNAs, or Computer Network Attacks - against Estonia in the spring of 2007 and against Georgia in the summer of 2008.
    The other most publicly aggressive cyberwar program is China's, which has engineered some of the most daring acts of espionage or CNEs, Computer Network Exploitations that have proved embarrassing for their victims, like the penetration of the Pentagon in 2007.
    See also Was Israel Behind the Stuxnet Worm Attack on Iran? - Yossi Melman (Tablet)

Syria Accuses Female Teenage Blogger of Spying - Albert Aji (AP)
    Tal al-Mallohi, 19, a blogger who has been imprisoned since December, has been accused of "spying for a foreign country," a Syrian official said Monday.

Israeli Minister Tours Mississippi Drone Factory - Emily Wagster Pettus (AP-Gulfport [MS] SunHerald)
    Israel's infrastructure minister Uzi Landau said he was pleased with the quality of workers he met Tuesday while touring an Israeli-owned factory in Mississippi.
    Stark Aerospace, which manufactures military drones in Columbus, employs about 115 people and is a subsidiary of Israeli Aerospace Industries.

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  • Stronger Hizbullah Emboldened for Fights Ahead - Thanassis Cambanis
    Four years after Hizbullah instigated its war with Israel in 2006, it appears to be, if not bristling for a fight with Israel, then coolly prepared for one. According to Hassan Nasrallah, the group's leader, Hizbullah has increased its missile stocks to 40,000, compared with 13,000 during the 2006 war.
        Hizbullah rejoined Lebanon's coalition government in 2008 as a full partner with veto power. Hizbullah officials say they are ready to fight even if a war would do widespread damage. Hizbullah proved it could quickly rebuild from the last war with hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from Iran. Polished 10-story apartment blocks, completed this year, line the center of Haret Hreik, the Beirut suburb almost uniformly reduced to rubble in 2006 because it housed many of Hizbullah's top institutions and leaders.
        New asphalt roads, designed and paid for by Iran, connect the interior and border villages of southern Lebanon - all Hizbullah areas - to the main coastal highway. Perhaps most importantly, Hizbullah's role in the government has paved the way for tighter cooperation with Lebanese intelligence units. Under the terms of the UN resolution that ended the war, Hizbullah was supposed to demilitarize the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River. But Hizbullah has done just the opposite. Its operatives roam strategic towns and have recruited scores of new fighters, by their own estimates either doubling or tripling their ranks. (New York Times)
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards Plan Cyber Army to "Conquer Virtual Space" - Babak Dehghanpisheh
    Symantec, an antivirus software company, estimates that more than 60,000 computers in Iran have been infected by the Stuxnet worm. Iranian officials - who have blamed the U.S. and Israel for the worm - see the attack as the latest round of a cyberwar targeting Iran and have formed the Cyber Army, a group linked to the Revolutionary Guards. A Guard spokesman has said that the goal of the Cyber Army is to "conquer virtual space."
        As part of that effort, 120 members of the Basij militia were recently sent for training in "social networking, psychological operations, protection from Internet spying, mobile phones and their capabilities, Basij cybercenters and videogames that would allow penetration into virtual space." Regardless of who created Stuxnet, Iran intends to fire its own shots in the cyberwar. (Newsweek)
  • Sanctions Begin to Compound Iran's Severe Economic Problems - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad's government is confronting severe economic problems including some triggered by international sanctions, which are causing prices to rise and making it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to work internationally. Steel prices have already increased by nearly 50% in the past two months because of the sanctions. Following fresh financial sanctions from the United Arab Emirates, Iran's Central Bank did not intervene when on Sept. 25, Iran's currency, the rial - stable for over a decade - plummeted by 15%, leaving traders and importers with evaporating bank accounts.
        "This all comes at a time when Iran is especially vulnerable because of its government's economic mismanagement and narrowed political flexibility," said Stuart Levey, a senior U.S. Treasury official. (Washington Post)
        See also Authorities Warn Gold Merchants in Tehran Bazaar to Call Off Anti-Tax Strike (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Iran Still Buying Gas Despite Sanctions
    The U.S. Government Accountability Office said five companies from China, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore may still be selling gasoline to Iran despite U.S. sanctions signed into law July 1. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Settlement Freeze Extension in Return for U.S. Recognition of Settlement Blocs? - Shimon Schiffer
    Sources close to U.S.-Israel discussions say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking President Barack Obama to renew U.S. approval of the commitments given by President George Bush to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the foremost of which is American support for annexation of settlement blocs to Israel in the framework of a permanent peace agreement. Diplomatic sources say the prime minister is trying to obtain clear commitments from the Americans that will not be open to interpretation, and that he can use to convince cabinet ministers to extend the construction freeze for two months.
        So far, Netanyahu has not reached agreement with the White House, and therefore has not raised the issue for formal discussion in government forums. The commitments being discussed are those appearing in the Bush letter to Sharon of April 14, 2004, prior to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 7Oct10)
        See also Israeli PM Urges Obama to Back Earlier Commitments (AFP)
        See also Exchange Construction Freeze for U.S. Renewal of Bush Letter - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)
        See also Text of the Bush Letter of April 14, 2004 (
  • Livni: UN Intervention in Israel's Right to Combat Terror "Unacceptable" - Shlomo Shamir
    Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday accused the UN of intervening in Israel's affairs through its probe into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. "Any international intervention in military operations carried out by Israel is unacceptable, just as it would be unacceptable to any other country fighting terrorism," Livni told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York. "Israel is investigating the events of the flotilla itself, and that is enough," she said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Looking Beyond a Two-Month Settlement Construction Freeze - Leslie Susser
    According to confidants, the Israeli prime minister fears that as soon as any new 60-day freeze ends, the Americans will put a "take it or leave it peace plan" of their own on the table. With the U.S. midterm elections over, Obama might feel able to publicly present parameters for a peace deal that Netanyahu would find impossible to accept. Israel might then find itself totally isolated and under intolerable international pressure. That is a scenario Netanyahu hopes the current negotiations with the Americans will help him avoid. (JTA)
  • Home Truths and One Illusion - Melanie Phillips
    Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced out of office early because, weakened by his backing for the war in Iraq, he refused to condemn Israel for the Lebanon war of 2006. Now, in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he has delivered some desperately needed truths about the way in which the West is all but handing victory to the Islamists. "We think if we sympathize with the narrative - that essentially this extremism has arisen as a result, partly, of our actions - we meet it halfway, we help the modernizers to be more persuasive," he said. "We don't."
        There was, however, one other thing Blair said which jarred. When he was in office, he frequently observed that if only the Israel/Palestinian impasse could be resolved, this would take much of the steam out of Islamic extremism worldwide. In his remarks this week, Blair repeated the canard.
        The Islamists don't hate the West because of Israel. The horrifying fact is that it is this pathological, psychotic hatred that is being stoked up by the West's adoption of the false "narrative" of Muslim oppression - while the "peace process" that Blair has so assiduously promoted for so many years, and which is based on the tragically naive premise that this is an argument over land boundaries, gives the Islamists every incentive to continue their manipulative and murderous "strategy of stages" towards Israel's destruction and the defeat of the West. (Spectator-UK)
        See also Tony Blair: The West Is Being "Outmaneuvered" by Violent Islamist Extremists - Jon Swaine (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    Netanyahu, Abbas and the Legitimacy Deficit - Shlomo Ben-Ami (Guardian-UK)

    • The Palestinian Authority has come neither to represent the majority of Palestinians nor to rule by democratic means. Abbas' presidential term has expired, and elections are constantly being postponed. The PA's prime minister, Salam Fayyad, like his Hamas counterparts in Gaza, rules by decree, keeps parliament inactive, and silences the opposition.
    • The assumption - dear to the architects of the current process - that peace can be achieved by driving a wedge between "moderates" and "extremists" is a fatal misconception. Not only does one negotiate with the illegitimate "moderates," but it is precisely because of their legitimacy deficit that the moderates are forced to be unyielding on core issues, lest the radicals label them treasonous.
    • Abbas is too weak and compromised to accept any final settlement with which Netanyahu can live.
    • And even if Palestinian negotiators agreed to end the conflict once and for all, the chances that all Palestinian factions would abide by such a settlement are nil.

      The writer is a former Israeli foreign minister.

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