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U.S. Probing Cyberattack Plot by Venezuela, Iran - Shaun Waterman (Washington Times)
U.S. officials are investigating reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats in Mexico were involved in planned cyberattacks against U.S. targets.
Allegations about the cyberplot were aired last week in a documentary on the Spanish-language TV network Univision, which included secretly recorded footage of Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats being briefed on the planned attacks and promising to pass information to their governments.
In the meetings with the diplomats, hackers discussed possible targets, including the FBI, the CIA and the Pentagon, and nuclear facilities, both military and civilian.
Rising Prices Main Clue to Iran Sanctions Impact - Robin Pomeroy and Ramin Mostafavi (Gulf Times-Qatar)
Sanctions on Iran are mainly being felt in the form of inflation. The official inflation rate in Iran stands at 20% - up from 8.8% in August 2010. Unemployment is estimated at 14.6%.
Most of the rise in inflation can be put down to President Ahmadinejad's decision to abolish billions of dollars of government subsidies.
Apple to Set Up Israel Development Center - Shmulik Shelach (Globes)
Apple Inc. has decided to open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors.
The planned Israel center will be the company's first such facility outside of its California headquarters.
Swiss Charge 3 in Nuclear Smuggling Case - Frank Jordans (AP)
Three Swiss engineers - a father and his two sons - have been charged with breaking arms export laws by aiding a Pakistani-led nuclear smuggling ring that supplied Libya's atomic weapons program, the federal prosecutors office in Bern said Tuesday.
Urs Tinner, 46, his brother Marco, 43, and their father Friedrich, 74, are accused of providing technology and know-how to the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
Saudi Textbook: The Enmity between the Muslims and the Jews Is Everlasting (MEMRI)
A 12th-grade Saudi textbook titled Studies from the Muslim World includes a chapter on Palestine and the Palestinian cause, which deals extensively with the Jews.
The chapter presents the conflict over Palestine as a religious struggle between the Jews and the Muslims that goes back to the era of the Prophet Muhammad.
It states that there is no hope of ever making peace with the Jews, stresses the negative traits of the Jews that are described in the Koran, and states that the only way to liberate Palestine is through jihad.
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- Report: Syrian Defectors Kill 27 Soldiers - Elizabeth A. Kennedy
Syrian army defectors killed at least 27 soldiers and security forces Thursday in clashes in the southern province of Daraa, activists said. Frederic Hof, the State Department's pointman on Syria, told Congress on Wednesday, "Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking....I do not see this regime surviving."
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a report identifying 74 Syrian commanders and officials who authorized or gave direct orders for widespread killings, torture, and illegal arrests of protesters.
See also Syrian Defectors Tell of Orders to Kill and Torture Protesters - Tim Lister (CNN)
Read the Report "By All Means Necessary!" Individual and Command Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Syria (Human Rights Watch)
See also 40 Dead in Syria as Troops Raid Hama
Reports on Wednesday said government troops entered Hama and opened fire with machine guns. They looted and burned shops which were closed as part of a general strike. Syrian troops backed by tanks killed at least ten people in Hama. In response, defectors from the Syrian army attacked a convoy of military jeeps, killing eight soldiers. At least 30 people were killed in other parts of Syria.
- Hamas Says It Killed 1,365 Israelis - Jonathan Ferziger and Saud Abu Ramadan
Hamas marked 24 years since its founding on Wednesday and claimed it had killed 1,365 Israelis in that period. "The armed resistance and the armed struggle are our only choice to liberate the land, to liberate all of Palestine from the sea to the river and expel the invaders," Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, told a crowd of more than 100,000 in Gaza City. Hamas said it had carried out 1,117 attacks against Israel, including 87 suicide bombings, and had launched 11,093 rockets at Israeli targets.
(Bloomberg-San Francisco Chronicle)
See also Hamas Calls for an Arab Army "to Liberate Jerusalem" - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday called for the formation of an Arab army "to liberate Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque very soon." The rally in Gaza was attended by schoolchildren dressed in military uniforms and brandishing fake rockets and rifles.
Iyad Taha, age 9, told a reporter: "As of today, I belong to Hamas. When I grow up I will be with Hamas and defend the Aksa Mosque and Muslims." (Jerusalem Post)
- Beirut Bank Seen as a Hub of Hizbullah's Financing - Jo Becker
Last February, the Obama administration accused the Lebanese Canadian Bank of laundering money for an international cocaine ring with ties to the Shiite militant group Hizbullah.
Now, in the wake of the bank's exposure and arranged sale, its ledgers have been opened to reveal evidence of an intricate global money-laundering apparatus that, with the bank as its hub, appeared to let Hizbullah move huge sums of money into the legitimate financial system. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Virginia announced the indictment of Ayman Joumaa,
the man at the center of the Lebanese Canadian Bank case.
Intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hizbullah officials in the South American cocaine trade. According to Lebanon's drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path for bringing cocaine into his country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Quartet Calls for Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks "Without Delay or Preconditions" - Herb Keinon
The Quartet - made up of the U.S., EU, UN and Russia - issued yet another call for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks "without delay or preconditions" following separate meetings its envoys had Wednesday in Jerusalem with Palestinian and Israeli officials. This is the third time the Quartet has held such meetings in Jerusalem, and put out a similar statement, since Sept. 23, when it issued a framework for returning to talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said,
"If the Palestinian side continues to refuse to negotiate to solve problems to move the peace process forward, then this raises serious questions as to their seriousness and to their commitment to a negotiated peace." (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel to Release More Prisoners as Part of Shalit Deal - Herb Keinon
Israel will honor its commitments to the Egyptians and release 550 Palestinian security prisoners Sunday in the second stage of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, though none of those released will be Hamas-affiliated, a government official said Wednesday.
See also 377 of the Palestinians Slated for Release Were Involved in Shooting, Bombing, Attempted Murder - Aaron Lerner
A review of the crimes carried out by the 550 Palestinian prisoners slated
for release finds that 377 are serving time for shooting, planting and/or
throwing bombs, or being involved
in an attempt to murder.
- Palestinian Ceasefire Violations Since the End of the Gaza Operation
Since the end of Israel's Gaza operation (January 2009), Palestinians in Gaza have fired 624 rockets and 392 mortar shells into Israel.
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Diplomacy after the Arab Uprisings - Dore Gold
On Dec. 8, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar revealed that one of the key leaders of the new Libyan power structure, Abdul Hakim Belhadj, was one of the suspects involved in the Madrid train bombing of 2004 that left 192 people dead and over 2,000 wounded.
Other noted Islamists that are part of the new Libyan leadership include Sheikh Ali Salibi, who lived for many years in exile in Qatar where he was a close associate of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the global Muslim Brotherhood.
The fall of the old regimes in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt led to their replacement with Islamist parties associated in one way or another with the Muslim Brotherhood, leading a Saudi commentator in al-Sharq al-Awsat to rename the region-wide revolution as the "Muslim Brotherhood Spring." The writer is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and served as Israel's ambassador to the UN (1997-1999).
- Iraq's Shiites in No Mood to Embrace Iran - Liz Sly
The ascent to power of Iraqi Shiites reversed nearly 1,400 years of sometimes brutal Sunni domination. However, although Iraqi Shiites broadly welcome the departure of the Americans, they seem in no mood to substitute one form of foreign domination for another - and least of all, they say, from Iran. In Najaf, Iraq, the spiritual capital of Shiite Islam, Neama al-Ebadi, director of the Iraq Center for Research and Studies, said, "Do you know who in Iraq hates Iran more than anyone? It is Najaf," echoing a view widely expressed on the streets of the city. "The Shiites of Iran are Iranian first. They think they're superior to Arabs."
Under the stewardship of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Najaf's religious authorities have moved firmly to assert their quietist school of Shiite religious thought, under which the clerics are expected to merely advise rather than participate in politics, as they do in Iran.
- Where Did Nick Kristof Get the Idea that the Muslim Brotherhood Is Moderate?
- Eric Trager
As the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood tries to project itself as a responsible actor, including by hosting credulous New York Times columnist Nick Kristof for a home-cooked meal, over the past two weeks I have interviewed seven Brotherhood parliamentarians-to-be. Far from being moderate, these future leaders share a commitment to theocratic rule, complete with a limited view of civil liberties and an unmistakable antipathy for the West. At the most basic level, the organization's future parliamentarians insist that all law should be drawn exclusively from the sharia - and they are convinced that this is a goal shared by nearly all Egyptians.
When I told Essam Mukhtar, who was recently elected in northern Cairo, about a video that a friend had sent me depicting Salafists calling for holy war against the Jews, he laughed and suddenly transformed into a civil libertarian. "People are free to say what they want," he said. He proceeded to rant against Israel. The writer is the Ira Weiner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New Republic)
The U.S. Has Options to Help End the Carnage in Syria - Editorial (Washington Post)
A deeply disturbing report about the situation in Syria was delivered Monday to the UN Security Council by Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights. The regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to murder unarmed civilians, including children, in large numbers.
- Some 200 have died since Dec. 2, Ms. Pillay said; she estimated that more than 5,000 have been killed overall, including more than 300 children. Military and security forces have "received orders to shoot unarmed protesters without warning," she said.
- "Inaction by the international community" is emboldening the regime and encouraging it to continue the slaughter. The Security Council has yet to pass a resolution about Syria, thanks to resistance from Russia and China; the Arab League, which suspended Syria last month and threatened tough sanctions, is now prevaricating.
- If Western military action is off the table for now, it is time for the administration and its allies to consider other steps. While the administration rightly has urged the Syrian opposition to remain peaceful, if civil war is inevitable, it is in the United States' interest for that war to end as quickly as possible with the defeat of Mr. Assad.
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