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November 2, 2010

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Al-Qaeda Insider Told Saudis of Bomb Plot - Ahmed al-Haj and Hamza Hendawi (AP-ABC News)
    Information that helped thwart the plot of U.S.-bound mail bombs came from an al-Qaeda insider, Yemeni security officials said Monday.
    The tip came from Jabir al-Fayfi, a Saudi who was held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo and was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007.
    Soon after, he fled Saudi Arabia and joined the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, until he turned himself in to Saudi authorities in late September and revealed that al-Qaeda was planning to send bomb-laden packages.
    See also Al-Qaeda in Yemen Becoming More Lethal - Robert Baer (TIME)
    The bombs found on airplanes in Dubai and Britain show a higher degree of professionalism than we've ever seen come out of al-Qaeda. If al-Qaeda indeed made them, they've teamed up with true professionals.
    PETN, the explosive found in these two bombs, is the preferred explosive of professional bombmakers. It's particularly lethal, but more importantly it's malleable and can be disguised as all kinds of things.
    The writer is a former Middle East CIA field officer.

Baghdad Church Hostage Drama Ends in Bloodbath (BBC News)
    At least 52 people were killed as security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages.
    The gunmen had demanded the release of jailed al-Qaeda militants. The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni militant umbrella group to which al-Qaeda in Iraq belongs, claimed responsibility for the attack.
    The group said Iraqi Christians would be "exterminated" if Muslim women in Egypt were not freed, specifically mentioning two Coptic women in Egypt who radicals believe are being held by the Coptic Church against their will after converting to Islam.
    See also Egypt Ignores Iraq Qaeda Demands on Women (AFP)

Report: Hizbullah Preparing to Seize Power in Beirut (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah is preparing to seize power in Beirut should the UN Hariri tribunal implicate the group in the assassination of the former prime minister, Asharq Alawsat reported on Tuesday.
    The report said that Hizbullah, Amal and other pro-Syrian groups were working in coordination on a plan to take control of Beirut, the road to the south of the city, and neutralizing Christian and Sunni areas.
    Lebanese Brig.-Gen. Amin Hattit, who is close to Hizbullah, said, "Hizbullah would be able to seize power in three days, or a week at most."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Syria Needs to Pressure Iran and Hizbullah - Glenn Kessler
    Syria needs to pressure Iran and Hizbullah to rein in their activities in Lebanon if it wants to rebuild relations with the U.S., Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said in an interview. "Syria and the United States have taken some modest steps to see if we can improve the bilateral relationship. But this cannot go very far as long as Syria's friends are undermining stability in Lebanon. We have made that absolutely clear to the Syrians. There is a cost to the potential in our bilateral relationship to what Syria's friends are doing in Lebanon."  (Washington Post)
        Text of Interview (Washington Post)
  • Thousands in Gaza Chant "Death to America," "Death to Israel" - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Tens of thousands of supporters of the militant Islamic Jihad movement rallied in the streets of Gaza on Friday, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Young men and boys wearing white T-shirts with a slogan in the shape of a rifle bore portraits of militants killed in combat, under the black flags of Islamic Jihad. Ramadan Shallah, the group's exiled chief in Damascus who is on a U.S. wanted list, sent a recorded message saying: "Israel must be wiped out of existence."
        Senior leaders of the ruling Hamas joined the gathering, with up to 100,000 attending. Hamas allowed the group to use city terrain it usually reserves exclusively for its own rallies, and Hamas forces provided security for the parade. Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya said, "There is only the choice of Jihad and nothing else."  (Reuters)
  • Nobel Scholars Condemn Israel Boycott Efforts
    38 Nobel scholars have endorsed a statement condemning attempts to boycott, divest from or sanction Israeli academics, institutions, and research and training centers. The statement notes that academic and cultural boycotts, divestments and sanctions in the academy are: antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom, antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and may well constitute discrimination by virtue of national origin. Instead of fostering peace, these boycott and divestment efforts are likely to be counterproductive to the dynamics of reconciliation that lead to peace. (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Settlement Freeze Issue on Hold - Attila Somfalvi
    There is no concrete American proposal regarding the renewal of a settlement construction freeze in the West Bank and the issue is on hold for the time being, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday. He also said there was no truth to recent reports that Israel would lease land in east Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley from the Palestinians as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. (Ynet News)
  • Internet Boosting Global Terror Threat - Ora Coren
    "Internet technologies that are accessible to the general public like Google Earth webcams and iPhone applications supply super intelligence," Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Yuval Diskin told a conference on homeland security in Tel Aviv on Monday. "People surf the web to certain sites, are brainwashed by al-Qaeda operatives and receive instructions on how to deal with organizations like the Shin Bet."  (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Cancels UK Visit for Fear of Arrest - Attila Somfalvi
    Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor has canceled a scheduled trip to the UK for fear he would be arrested upon his arrival, Ynet reported Monday. The UK has yet to pass legislation preventing the arrest of senior Israeli officials over lawsuits filed by local political elements. (Ynet News)
  • Poll: Most Israelis Favor Talks But Don't Believe They'll Lead to Peace
    According to the "Peace Index" survey of Israeli opinion conducted in October, while 69% favor peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, 65% do not believe that negotiations will lead to peace in the coming years. 65% support Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people as a condition for extending the building freeze in the settlements.
        72% agree with the statement: "The Palestinians have not accepted the existence of the State of Israel and would destroy it if they could." 67% agree that this would remain true even if a peace agreement is signed. (Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • UNESCO and the Cradle of Jewish History - Editorial
    UNESCO, the UN body in charge of preserving historical sites, went too far this time in a particularly blatant attempt to erase Jewish ties to the Land of Israel. The UNESCO board declared the Haram al-Ibrahim/Cave of the Patriarchs and Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb to be "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories." As the second intifada was being launched in 2000, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, a Palestinian daily, published an article that blatantly departed from Muslim tradition, which corresponds with Jewish tradition, to claim that Rachel's Tomb was originally a Muslim mosque. Until then, all official PA references to the site had recognized it as Rachel's Tomb.
        Whether one is for or against Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, or for or against emphasizing Israel's "Jewishness," it is an undeniable fact that the geographical area referred to as the West Bank and that includes Hebron and Bethlehem was the cradle of Jewish history. No amount of historical revisionism or UNESCO declarations will erase this fact. If not for the Israeli security presence, Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs would be off limits to Jews today. (Jerusalem Post)
  • President Obama: Go Small and Stay Home - Aaron David Miller
    The world the president inherited, at least in the Middle East and South Asia, isn't defined by the promise of stunningly conclusive U.S. military victories or decisive conflict-ending agreements; instead of black and white, the U.S. confronts the world of gray - extractive and corrupt allies, determined and often undefined enemies, asymmetrical conflicts, and failed or failing states. Gone are the transformational ambitions of nation-building, grand bargains, and comprehensive peace. What's left are more in the way of downsized transactions: managing, not resolving conflict. (Foreign Policy)
  • Egyptian Columnist: Palestine in Gaza Has Lost Its Way
    Egyptian columnist 'Abdallah Al-Naggar wrote in the government daily Al-Gumhouriyya on Oct. 22: "After the disaster [of the 2009 Gaza war], the [Islamic Emirate of Gaza] celebrated its victory, and the Caliph [Isma'il Haniya] graced the survivors with a bombastic speech full of fiery phrases. [But] the tragedy repeated itself, and he was forced to sign a secret agreement with the enemy, to stop the rockets in return for a halt to the [enemy's] blows....[Meanwhile,] the Caliph lives in luxury, and drives a fast black car preceded by dozens of motorcycles, after the manner of generals and dignitaries around the world. This is a tragedy by any standards, for Palestine has lost its way."  (MEMRI)
  • Observations:

    The Foiled Yemeni Bomb Plot and Anti-Semitism - Lee Smith (Tablet)

    • British security officials, with some support from the White House, introduced the theory that the bombs weren't going to go off in America at all. Instead, they were going to blow up the planes carrying them in mid-air. This narrative is mostly substantiated by the fact that a UPS cargo plane crashed in Dubai two months ago - even if there is no evidence that this crash was an act of terror.
    • Yet the mid-air explosion thesis needs to explain why the two bombs had already been transported by two air-carriers and failed to explode.
    • What we do know is that the bombs were addressed to American synagogues - not churches or mosques (or financial institutions). Yet no one denounced the attempted murder of American citizens based on their faith.
    • Had a mosque been targeted, we can be sure that the president, rightly, would have denounced not only the act but the idea that it had singled out a particular section of the American people.
    • Anti-Semitism is not just about Jews; it's not a Jewish idea, any more than the Holocaust was. I am interested in anti-Semitism not just because it sickens me, but because it poisons American society as a whole. Anti-Semitism is the essential test of our character. Our current failure to recognize it and denounce it proves that our enemies have taken our measure.

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