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October 28, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Plot to Bomb Washington Metro System Foiled - Peter Finn, Spencer S. Hsu and Caitlin Gibson (Washington Post)
    Farooque Ahmed, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested Wednesday for conspiring with people he thought to be al-Qaeda operatives to bomb stations in the Washington Metro system.
    The arrest is the latest in a series of cases involving U.S. citizens, including another Pakistani American, Faisal Shahzad, 30, who was convicted of planning to set off a car bomb in Times Square.
    Since last year, more than 60 U.S. citizens have been charged or convicted in terrorism cases.

Russia Denies Contract to Sell MiG-31 Fighter Jets to Syria (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Russia denied Wednesday having signed a contract to deliver MiG-31 fighter jets to Syria.
    The newspaper Kommersant had reported that a contract for eight MiG-31s was signed at the beginning of 2007 for a price of $400-$500 million.

Israeli Arab Activist Confesses to Spying for Hizbullah - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli Arab political activist Ameer Makhoul confessed on Wednesday to charges of conspiring to assist an enemy, contact with a foreign agent, and espionage for Hizbullah.
    Makhoul served as director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Organizations, and also chaired the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee's panel on defending Arab citizens' freedoms.

Damascus Hosts Arab Boycott Conference (SANA-Syria)
    The 85th Conference of the Liaison Officers of the Arab Regional Offices on the Boycott of Israel kicked off on Tuesday in Damascus with the participation of 15 Arab countries and representatives of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
    Arab League Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs Mohammad Subeih noted that the Arab nation and the region at large are being exposed to Israeli and foreign conspiracies.

Saddam Hussein's Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz Sentenced to Death for Persecution of Shiites - Ernesto Londono (Washington Post )
    An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced Tariq Aziz, 74, former foreign minister in Saddam Hussein's government, to death by hanging for the persecution of Shiites after the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

Defeat for Israel Boycott Conference in Montreal (Quebec-Israel Committee)
    The Boycott-Israel conference that ended Sunday in Montreal was supposed to show the growing momentum for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
    With barely 100 activists attending the closing plenary, it is clear that the BDS movement has no noticeable traction or support in Quebec.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Fayyad: PA Will Declare Independent State in August 2011
    PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said plans are under way to declare an independent Palestinian state next year, according to an interview published on Thursday in the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the Jerusalem Post said. "The deadline is next summer, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank must end," Fayyad said. (UPI)
        See also UN Official Backs Palestinian Plan for Statehood - Tovah Lazaroff
    The UN Security Council could support the Palestinian's unilateral bid for statehood if Israel does not renew its freeze on new settlement construction, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry warned Israel on Tuesday. But he qualified his remarks by noting that he was an official of the UN and not a member of the Security Council, which would make such a decision. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Can the United Nations Create a Palestinian State? - Jackson Diehl
    On Nov. 15, 1988, Yasser Arafat unilaterally proclaimed "the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem." Shortly afterward the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to support the declaration; within months 93 governments had recognized the state of Palestine. That state, of course, never came into existence. The PLO declaration, the UN vote, even the recognition by scores of countries, proved meaningless.
        Yet Arafat's successor as PLO leader, Mahmoud Abbas, appears to be giving serious consideration to repeating the maneuver. Palestinian and Arab leaders appear to be hoping that after the U.S. midterm elections the Obama administration will crack down on Netanyahu. (Washington Post)
  • EU Rules Let Iran Import, Export Oil, Gas - Thomas Erdbrink and Glenn Kessler
    The EU issued regulations this week outlining tough restrictions on the sale of equipment and technology to the Iranian oil and gas industry, as well as on investment in those sectors. But the regulations - unlike legislation passed by the U.S. Congress - allow for the import and export of oil and gas to Iran. "We don't want any negative effect on the Iranian population or to deprive them of energy, so we do not follow U.S. measures that go beyond United Nations sanctions," said a European official who specializes in sanction policies. (Washington Post)
  • U.S.: Syria Not Playing a Constructive Role in the Region
    In response to comments by Syrian President Assad that the U.S. is creating chaos in every place it entered, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday: "Recent Syrian behavior and rhetoric has had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon and the region, has contributed to recent tensions. We understand that certain actors within and outside Lebanon, including Syria, Hizbullah, and Iran, may believe they stand to gain by escalating sectarian tensions in an attempt to assert their own authority over Lebanon....We believe we're playing a constructive role in the region and we believe that Syria is not."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Obama's Reset Button Not Working for Syria - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
  • Israeli General Lays Out Plan for Reviving Gaza - Dan Perry and Karin Laub
    IDF Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said in an interview Monday that he is pursuing a complex and delicate strategy to enable exports from and development in Gaza while preventing the Islamic militants who rule it from getting credit for any progress. Dangot said Israel seeks to work with Hamas' rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, to help revive the economy. Fayyad would set priorities for what Gaza needs and place his people at the borders, Dangot explained. The PA must "show the flag there, to show their existence - even if 100 meters from there is a Hamas checkpoint."
        "We are fighting against a terror regime," said Dangot. "You cannot be in a situation where Hamas gets credit for a policy" that improves the lives of people. He explained that continued import restrictions are necessary because of concerns that cement, steel and other items could be diverted by Hamas to build bunkers and tunnels. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Nigeria Intercepts Iranian Weapons - Barak Ravid
    Nigeria's secret service said on Tuesday it had intercepted 13 containers of weapons from Iran in what Israeli defense sources believe may be part of a new smuggling route from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. Rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives concealed among crates of floor tiles were seized in the Nigerian port of Lagos after being unloaded from an Iranian ship. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Ahmadinejad in West Africa: What Iranian Outreach to the Region Reveals about Tehran's Foreign Policy - Charlie Szrom
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad continued efforts to cultivate relationships with West African countries in a trip to the region last July. Iran has dramatically increased its economic activity in the region and laid the groundwork for further expansion: the value of 2009 exports to the Ivory Coast, Niger, and Senegal was roughly 2,700, 2,800, and 3,600 percent higher (respectively) than 2000 exports.
        Tehran has also experienced setbacks in the region: Nigeria voted for sanctions on Iran at the UN in June 2010, while Mali, Mauritania, and other West African nations continue to cooperate on counterterrorism with the U.S. (American Enterprise Institute)
  • Hizbullah Used Footage from IDF Drone to Ambush Israeli Commandos - Yaakov Katz
    Hizbullah succeeded in ambushing an Israeli navy commando force in 1997 in Lebanon after intercepting surveillance footage of a planned raid. In August, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah revealed footage from what he claimed was an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that had conducted surveillance over the area that the commandos were supposed to raid in 1997.
        An IDF investigation appears to have determined that Hizbullah had indeed intercepted the UAV footage and as a result was able to plan the ambush in which 11 commandos were killed. The IDF is now in the process of encrypting the signals from its drones, defense officials said Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran and Saudi Arabia Are Working Together - Zvi Bar'el
    The American effort to portray the $60 billion arms deal between Riyadh and Washington as aimed against Tehran doesn't fit with the Saudi point of view. "Iran is not the enemy, Israel is the enemy," the head of the Center for Strategic Studies in Saudi Arabia declared in an interview with Al Jazeera. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia twice last week, and Iran reported that a senior Iranian official would visit Riyadh soon.
        Regarding Lebanon, Iran is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to help stop the work of the special international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in order to prevent the collapse of the Lebanese regime. Meanwhile, the indictment is not expected before February. (Ha'aretz)
  • American Public Opinion toward Iran's Nuclear Program: Moving toward Confrontation - Eytan Gilboa
    An in-depth analysis of U.S. public opinion polls shows that most Americans increasingly understand that the radical Islamic regime in Iran must be confronted. Few believe that President Obama's strategy of engagement and negotiation with Iran will be successful.
        Indeed, over the past two years, a substantial majority of Americans have come to support the use of military force against Iran - if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Poll results indicate much more public determination to stop Iran than has been evidenced in official American policy and action. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Observations:

    A Palestinian Reformist in Ramallah - Zainab Rashid (MEMRI)

    • In an interview posted on the liberal Arab website Aafaq on Oct. 4, Palestinian reformist Zainab Rashid said: "I am a Palestinian who experiences and endures the same things suffered by any Palestinian woman....The suffering is two-fold: she lives in a chauvinistic society, which continues to treat women as immature and incompetent beings...and she suffers [both] from the occupation and from the rule [of the Palestinian Authority], whose methods, until some three years ago...resembled the methods of gangs rather than institutions."
    • "Unfortunately, the Palestinians consider themselves to be the greatest of the Muslim believers, at the forefront of the religious battle that they are waging against the hated Jews - a battle that is supposed to continue until Judgment Day."
    • "There is a general tendency, which most Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are still promoting successfully, [to see] Palestine as the central cause of the Arabs and Muslims, and as the greatest humanitarian tragedy of all times....It is not the greatest tragedy. The tragedy of Iraq and the Iraqi people under Saddam's regime...and then under the army of Muslim suicide [bombers] has been immeasurably greater than that of our people. The tragedy of Sudan and the Sudanese people, especially the inhabitants of Darfur under Omar Hassan Al-Bashir's criminal regime, is an infinitely greater tragedy than ours."
    • "Hamas received a directive from the Syrian and Iranian regimes which control it to carry out two attacks in the West Bank, shortly before the first session of peace talks, with the intent of undermining the negotiations. This is what all the dictatorships have done throughout the history of this struggle in order to prevent its resolution."

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