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January 2, 2012

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Turkey's Spy Satellite to Zoom In on Israeli Secrets (RT-Russia)
    High-resolution photos of Israel, which are currently unavailable to the public, may soon turn up in the hands of its many enemies.
    Turkey is putting the finishing touches to the Gokturk military satellite it plans to launch within the next two years. "Turkey could sell directly or indirectly some of these images to enemies of Israel," explains Mohammed Najib, defense analyst at Jane's Defense Weekly.
    See also Erdogan Meets with Gaza's Hamas Premier in Istanbul (Zaman-Turkey)
    See also Gaza's Hamas Premier Visits Turkey's IHH, Flotilla Ship Mavi Marmara (AP)

Is Twitter Aiding Hizbullah? - Kevin Flower (CNN)
    Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, sent a letter to Twitter on Thursday asserting that the company is violating U.S. law by allowing groups such as Hizbullah and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab to use its popular online network.
    "Please be advised that (doing so) is illegal and will expose Twitter Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized" by Hizbullah, al-Shabaab and other foreign terrorist entities.
    Hizbullah and al-Shabaab are officially designated as terrorist organizations under U.S. law. A 2010 Supreme Court case - Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project - upheld a key provision of the Patriot Act prohibiting material support to groups designated as terrorist outfits.

U.S. to Provide UAE with $3.48B in Weapons (AP-Washington Post)
    The U.S. will sell the United Arab Emirates a THAAD missile defense system for $3.48 billion as part of a massive buildup of defense technology among friendly Mideast nations near Iran, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The Mutating Al-Qaeda Threat - Mitchell D. Silber (Washington Times)
    Ten years ago last month, "shoe bomber" Richard Reid boarded an American Airlines flight bound for Miami from Paris, intending to kill himself and all of the other passengers by detonating an explosive device he had concealed in his shoes.
    What was unknown at the time is that Reid was not supposed to act alone. Saajid Badat - like Reid a British citizen - was supposed to ignite his own pair of explosive shoes on a different trans-Atlantic flight, but he dropped out in the plot's final stages.
    A careful dissection of 16 of the most important "al-Qaeda" plots launched against the West since 1993 reveals a consistent trend.
    They used men who radicalized to violence in Western cities such as Hamburg, Montreal, London and New York, who showed up on al-Qaeda's doorstep on their own initiative and then were trained, turned around and launched back at the West by al-Qaeda.
    Whether it was the Madrid transit-system attacks of 2004, the bombings in London on July 7, 2005, or the New York City subway plot of September 2009, the bombers lived in the great cities of the West, were radicalized in the West and turned to violence in the West.
    The writer is director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Targets Iran's Central Bank - Carole E. Lee and Keith Johnson
    President Barack Obama signed into law on Saturday sanctions against Iran's central bank, marking the sharpest economic confrontation between Washington and Tehran yet and potentially stoking tensions in the Persian Gulf. The measure, which Congress passed as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, penalizes foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, Bank Markazi.
        Mr. Obama has some flexibility in determining the strength and scope of the sanctions, which are intended to make it more difficult for Iran to sell its oil. But the administration intends to move forward with implementing the law in a way that doesn't damage the global economy, senior administration officials said. The toughest measures won't take effect for at least six months, including transactions from governments purchasing Iranian oil and selling petroleum products.
        The president said in a signing statement Saturday that the Iran section of the bill, as well as several others, "would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations" because it forces him "to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments." He said that "should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as nonbinding."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Jordan to Host Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators
    The Jordanian government on Sunday said it would host a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Officials said Tuesday's talks would not be a formal negotiating session. Jordan's foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, will host the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian representatives with teams from the international Quartet of Mideast mediators. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and chief Israeli envoy Isaac Molcho were scheduled to be at Tuesday's meeting. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Erekat: Meeting in Jordan Doesn't Signal Renewal of Peace Talks - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
        See also PFLP: Israeli, Palestinian Meeting "A Grave Mistake" (Ma'an News-PA)
        See also Palestinians Plan Diplomatic Steps to Put Israel under "International Siege" - Barak Ravid
    According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry document, Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath has said that 2012 "will be the start of an unprecedented diplomatic campaign on the part of the Palestinian leadership, and it will be a year of pressure on Israel that will put it under a real international siege....The campaign will be similar to the one waged against apartheid in South Africa."
        The Palestinian campaign may include asking the UN Security Council to condemn settlement construction and impose international sanctions on Israel; urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to try Israel for war crimes related to the 2009 Gaza Operation, and encouraging Palestinians to file lawsuits against Israel in Western courts; convening the signatories of the Geneva Convention to discuss the construction of Israeli communities in the West Bank; sending a UN fact-finding committee to look into the settlement issue; renewing efforts in the UN Security Council to secure full membership; and organizing mass rallies against Israel in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • Arab Group Wants to Pull Syria Monitors
    The 88-member Arab Parliament called Sunday for the immediate withdrawal of Arab League monitors in Syria because President Assad's government has continued to kill opponents, despite the monitors' presence. The monitors are supposed to be ensuring that Syria complies with terms of the Arab League's plan to end its crackdown on dissent - a plan the Syrian government agreed to on Dec. 19. More than 150 people have been killed since the observers began their mission on Tuesday. The Arab League created the Arab Parliament, whose recommendation is nonbinding. (AP-New York Times)
        See also In Damascus Suburb, Protesters and Army Play Cat and Mouse (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Muslim Brotherhood: Israel Peace Deal Isn't Binding - Roi Kais
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood will not recognize Israel under any circumstances and might put the peace treaty with the Jewish state up to a referendum, Rashad al-Bayoumi, the movement's second in command, told Al-Hayat on Sunday. The Muslim Brotherhood "did not sign the peace accords," he said. "We are allowed to ask the people or the elected parliament to express their opinion on the treaty....To me, it isn't binding at all."
        "On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity," he added. "We won't cooperate with Israel in any situation."  (Ynet News)
        See also Are Egypt's Islamic Parties Planning to Nullify the Peace Treaty with Israel? - Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Palestinians Fire Mortar Shells Containing Phosphorous at Israel - Yaakov Lappin
    Two mortar shells fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday contained phosphorous, security forces confirmed. Phosphorous is designed to ignite a fire around the impact zone. The chemical is banned by international law for use near civilians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Security Fence to Be Built Along Israeli-Jordan Border - Ben Hartman
    When the security fence along the border with Egypt is complete, a fence will also be built along the border with Jordan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday. 2,931 migrants illegally entered Israel in December 2011, part of 16,816 who entered during the year. As of Nov. 25, 2011, 28,205 "infiltrators" were from Eritrea, 13,066 from Sudan and 9,855 from elsewhere in Africa. Defense officials said the increase in infiltrations in recent months was due to an effort by migrants to reach Israel before the fence is completed. None of the infiltrations have taken place where there is a fence. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Tehran's Hollow Hormuz Strait Threat - Michael Rubin
    While the threat from a resurgent Iran is real, its bluster about closing the Strait of Hormuz is more diversion than danger. The waterway may be an economic chokehold, but it is also a vital passage for Iran's survival. Any Iranian challenge to the strait would be suicide. When the Iranian government mined the Persian Gulf in 1988, damaging a U.S. guided missile frigate, President Ronald Reagan launched Operation Preying Mantis, simultaneously attacking two Iranian oil platforms. In the surrounding firefight, Iran lost a frigate, a gunboat, three speedboats and, temporarily, two oil platforms. The U.S. lost one helicopter, the casualty of a crash rather than battle damage. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (New York Daily News)
        See also Iran Is Feeling the Heat of Sanctions - Peter Jones
    The overwhelming bulk of Iran's oil exports flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Oil is virtually Iran's only export and the only thing keeping up its moribund economy. It is inconceivable that Iran would shut down the strait, unless the regime faced its own demise. Anything less than that, and Iran would never cut off the strait, whatever its rhetoric. This verbal jousting on the part of the Iranians demonstrates that they are feeling the heat of sanctions. The writer is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
  • Majority and Minorities in the Arab World: The Lack of a Unifying Narrative - Zvi Mazel
    The current sociopolitical eruption in the Arab world is the result of the total failure of Arab states to create a unifying national narrative and establish modern egalitarian polities. Instead of seeking what is unifying, and constructing a society that mobilizes its resources to defeat backwardness and improve the economy, the elites have attempted through Arab nationalism and/or Islam to impose a unity that has always left parts of the population outside the majority community.
        At this stage no one in the Arab states is thinking about minorities and national unity. There is no talk of reconciliation or minority rights. Indeed, the situation of minorities has only worsened. The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is a former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, as well as Sweden and Romania. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Iran Seeking to Expand Influence in Latin America - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)

  • Iran is quietly seeking to expand its ties with Latin America in what U.S. officials and regional experts say is an effort to circumvent economic sanctions and gain access to much-needed markets and raw materials. The new diplomatic offensive includes a swing through Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua this month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  • Iran has also dramatically expanded its diplomatic missions throughout the hemisphere and dispatched members of its elite Quds Force to serve in its embassies. Former U.S. intelligence officials say the presence of Quds Force officers in diplomatic missions enhances Iran's ability to carry out covert activities, sometimes in conjunction with members of Hizbullah, that operates extensive networks in Latin America and maintains ties with drug cartels.
  • Iran's closest ally in the region, Venezuela, had its largest petroleum company hit with U.S. sanctions last year over its ties with Iran. Nicaragua and Bolivia have seen little of the millions of dollars in aid promised by Iranian officials over the past decade.
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was disturbed by Ahmadinejad's plans for what she called a "tour of tyrants," saying it would bring "the Iranian threat closer to our shores."

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