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Bin Laden Continued Running Al-Qaeda - Kimberly Dozier (AP)
Counter-terrorist officials underestimated how key Osama bin Laden remained to running al-Qaeda, as captured documents shattered the conventional thinking that he had been reduced through isolation to being an inspirational figurehead, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Hit Los Angeles, not just New York, bin Laden wrote. Target trains as well as planes. If possible, strike on significant dates, such as the Fourth of July and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Above all, he urged, kill more Americans in a single attack, to drive them from the Arab world.
Documents show he helped plan every recent major al-Qaeda threat the U.S. is aware of, including plots in Europe last year.
See also Bin Laden's Death Likely to Shatter al-Qaeda - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
U.S. security and intelligence officials say al-Qaeda is severely weakened after losing Osama bin Laden.
A U.S. official said Tuesday that about 180 strikes have been carried out since early 2009, most using missiles from remotely piloted aircraft, that have killed about 1,200 militants.
In Pakistan alone, more than a dozen senior leaders have been killed or captured in recent years.
U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that 12 of the 20 most senior al-Qaeda leaders remain at large in the region.
U.S. Attorney General: Bin Laden Death "Not an Assassination" (BBC News)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has told the BBC that the raid in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed was "not an assassination."
Israeli Defense Official Discusses Hamas, Egypt - Ilan Lior and Yanir Yagna (Ha'aretz)
A senior Israeli defense official told reporters on Wednesday, "It's hard to conduct negotiations [on freeing captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit] with four different Hamas heads. Ismail Haniyeh has his own views, [Khaled] Mashal has opinions of his own, and Ahmed Jaberi and Mohammed Deif also have their own independent ideas."
Israel has "worked out understandings with some Hamas officials regarding a deal [to free Shalit], but other elements in Hamas have scuttled it."
The official said that the Egyptian army has been cooperating reasonably well with Israel. Yet "one thing which is hard for the Egyptian army to control is the Sinai, which has turned into a black hole, as far as terror is concerned."
He added, "The explosion of the gas pipeline was not an act of terror against the State of Israel. Instead, it expressed a desire for protection money."
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- President Obama to Renew Muslim Outreach - Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee
President Barack Obama is preparing a fresh outreach to the Muslim world in coming days, senior U.S. officials say, one that will ask those in the Middle East and beyond to reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death and embrace a new era of relations with the U.S.
The president intends to argue that bin Laden's death, paired with popular uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, signal that the time has come to an end when al-Qaeda could claim to speak for Muslim aspirations.
The White House is still debating whether Mr. Obama should lay out a concrete plan for revitalizing the stalled Arab-Israeli peace process and whether an aggressive U.S. push to resume peace talks would likely be successful.
(Wall Street Journal)
- U.S. Closer to Calling for Assad to Go - Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee
The Obama administration is edging closer to calling for an end to the long rule of the Assad family in Syria. Administration officials said Tuesday that the first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift that would amount to a call for regime change.
"We urge the Syrian government to stop shooting protesters, to allow for peaceful marches and to stop these campaigns of arbitrary arrests and to start a meaningful dialogue," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday.
Two administration officials said the U.S. is concerned about a prevailing perception that its response to Assad's repression has been too soft. They said Assad has dispelled nearly any lingering hope that he can or will deliver on grandiose pledges of reform he has made since coming to power 11 years ago.
"We're getting close," one official said on the question of challenging Assad's legitimacy. (AP)
- Reporter Witnesses Mass Arrests in Syria - Robert Mackey
Martin Fletcher, a correspondent for The Times of London, visited Syria last week posing as a tourist. He reported that Homs was "like an occupied city...virtually under martial law," with sets of four tanks deployed at every intersection. He was eventually detained, reporting "that the regime had been arresting almost every young man of fighting age that they could find on the streets of Homs." Fletcher suggested that the protest movement did not seem to be on the brink of success and that it was, so far, "nowhere near on the scale of Egypt."
"President Assad still remains fairly popular, certainly compared to Gaddafi and Mubarak, among substantial sections of the population. The regime is relatively united. The army hasn't split as it did in Libya and it's not standing on the sidelines obviously as it did in Egypt." "Assad still has quite a lot of support in Syria and a lot of people think the protesters are disrupting normal life, they simply want this to be over....There is little chance of this insurrection removing Assad in the near future." (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Italy: No to Unilateral PA Bid - Ronen Medzini
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared that his country would not, in any way, support a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.
During a reception held by Israeli Ambassador to Italy Gideon Meir in Rome in honor of Israel's Independence Day, Berlusconi said that "unilateral recognition isn't the way to make agreements between countries" and that this was also the EU's stance.
- Israel Security Agency Chief: Hamas Will Not Agree to Peace Deal with Israel - Ilan Lior
Outgoing Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin warned Wednesday that
"Hamas has not changed its ideology or its policy, and it surely does not intend on agreeing to any kind of peace deal with the State of Israel." At most, Hamas "may agree to a ceasefire which it will use to build up its power."
Diskin also expressed doubt regarding the authenticity of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.
"It's possible to put on a show of signing ceremonies in Cairo, but this is not the reality on the ground."
See also Hamas: We Will Never Recognize Israel
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an on Wednesday that recognizing Israel would "preclude the right of the next generations to liberate" all of Palestine. Zahar
confirmed that Hamas would continue to honor Hamas' military truce with Israel, but reiterated that the truce was "part of the resistance, not its rejection." (Ha'aretz)
See also Hamas: Gaza Not Ready to Host Abbas Any Time Soon - Saleh Naami
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not be able to visit Gaza as the security situation is still fragile, Hamas foreign policy chief Mahmoud Zahar said Wednesday. Zahar also said that Hamas would not allow the return of the Fatah security officers who used to run Gaza before 2007, and does not agree to re-open Fatah offices in Gaza.
- Hamas-Fatah Deal Exposes the West's Fantasy of Palestinian Moderation - Lee Smith
The Hamas-Fatah deal jeopardizes the entire peace process. All the money and prestige the U.S. and EU have poured into the Palestinian issue has come to this: The carefully tended moderate camp has merged with the extremists. Bin Laden's death offers an easy yardstick: If you enthusiastically support a man whose grand strategy consisted of killing as many Americans as possible then you are our enemy. Hamas mourned Osama's passing.
The Palestinian hatred of Israel has been obvious for decades to anyone who reads the statements of Palestinian leaders or the textbooks they distribute to their children. The debate between Palestinian moderates and radicals is a debate over the means, and the timetable, for reaching a common goal. American and other Western policymakers have been peddling a fantasy of Palestinian moderation and peaceful coexistence for more than 30 years.
- On a Palestinian Munich - Bernard-Henri Levy
How can so many reasonable minds welcome the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as good news, when it is, in reality, a catastrophe?
It is a catastrophe for Israel, aware that an organization whose favored mode of diplomatic expression has consisted, since the 2007 putsch, of firing missiles at the civilians of Sderot, is back in the saddle.
It is a catastrophe for Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, who, in a few short moments, has ruined all the hard-won political and moral credit gained in the course of the years when he hung on when confronted by a Hamas dubbed a "terrorist organization" by the EU and the U.S.
PA-Hamas Pact a Devastating Blow to Peace - Michael Oren (Los Angeles Times)
See also Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Will Have Little Effect on Peace - Fareed Zakaria (CNN)
- After the death of Osama bin Laden, Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas regime in Gaza, declared:
"We condemn the assassination of an Arab holy warrior."
This is the same Hamas that has launched hundreds of suicide bombers and thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. Hamas terrorists have held Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, in solitary confinement for nearly five years without a single Red Cross visit. My own sister-in-law, Joan Davenny, a visiting teacher from New Haven riding on a bus to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was murdered by a Hamas bomber.
- In spite of these scars, we still seek the creation of a Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in mutual recognition, security and respect. And the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, we hoped, would be our partner.
- But PA President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel. Instead, he revealed his plan to declare Palestinian statehood unilaterally, without making peace, a violation of treaties with both Israel and the U.S. Then, last week, Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas, an Iranian proxy, dealing a devastating blow to peace and delivering a potent victory to terrorism.
The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S.
- The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal is a sign of the weakness of both Fatah and Hamas. In the last election, Hamas won 40% of the vote in a situation that was unusual, and since then they have lost a lot of that support. Both Fatah and Hamas were motivated to do something to show the Palestinian people that they're trying to get their act together.
- Ultimately, I don't think it matters that much because Hamas will need to forswear its charter and its talk about eliminating Israel for there to be any realistic prospect the Israelis will want to negotiate with them. So as far as I can tell, the reconciliation is a smaller move than meets the eye and ultimately will not have much effect on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
- For a long time, I have felt that there was much less prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace than people thought. So far for the last 10 years, I've been proven right.
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