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Suspected Islamic Extremist Arrested in Florida Bomb Plot (AP-Washington Post)
Sami Osmakac, 25, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kosovo, was charged with plotting to attack Tampa-area nightclubs and a sheriff's office with bombs and an assault rifle to avenge wrongs done to Muslims, federal authorities said Monday.
In a video recorded shortly before his arrest, Osmakac said Muslim blood was more valuable than that of people who do not believe in Islam. He said he wanted "payback" for wrong that was done to Muslims.
The area's Muslim community helped provide authorities with information about Osmakac, said Steve Ibison, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Tampa division.
See also Ex-U.S. Soldier Tried to Aid Islamic Terror Group in Somalia - Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post)
Political Groups in Egypt to Block Jewish Access to Famous Rabbi's Tomb (Egypt Independent)
A number of political groups in Egypt announced Monday that they plan to protest at the
tomb of Yaakov Abuhatzeira, a Moroccan rabbi who died in 1880 while on a pilgrimage to the Land of Israel and is buried in the Egyptian village of Damtu outside Damanhour.
The groups said they will form human shields to prevent any "Zionist" visitors from visiting the tomb on Jan. 9-10, the anniversary of his death.
Egyptian Christian Faces Trial for Insulting Islam - Sarah El Deeb (AP)
A prominent Christian Egyptian media mogul faces trial on a charge of insulting Islam, based on his relaying a cartoon on his Twitter account.
Last June, Naguib Sawiris posted a cartoon showing a bearded Mickey Mouse and veiled Minnie. He made a public apology after Islamists complained, but his action set off a boycott of his telecom company and a formal complaint was filed against him. His trial begins on Jan. 14.
Israel Aerospace Sells $1.1 Billion in Arms to Asian Nation (Reuters)
Israel Aerospace Industries will sell weapons systems worth more than $1.1 billion to an Asian country over the next four years, IAI announced on Monday.
U.S. to Sell Israel 2,500 Used Hummers, Trucks - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
The IDF will purchase 2,500 Hummer vehicles, trucks and other equipment used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday.
Payment for the gear would come from the military aid provided by the U.S. to Israel.
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- IAEA Inspectors Say Iran Is Enriching Uranium at Mountain Site - William J. Broad
Atomic inspectors in Vienna confirmed Monday that Iran has begun enriching uranium at a new plant in Fordow in a mountainous region near Qum. It is Iran's second major enrichment site, and it is buried deep underground.
International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said Monday that the agency could confirm that Iran has begun enriching uranium at Fordow to 20% purity - a concentration that will make it far easier to produce fuel for an atom bomb. Because uranium enrichment becomes much easier as it goes from low to high concentrations, weapons experts consider 20% purity very close to bomb-grade fuel, where the concentrations of uranium 235 are raised to around 90%. (New York Times)
- China Rejects Sanctions on Iranian Oil - Keith B. Richburg
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, visiting Beijing this week, is expected to press China's leaders to reduce the country's oil imports from Iran. But Cui Tiankai, China's vice foreign minister responsible for U.S. relations, said Monday that while China supports global nonproliferation efforts, trade is separate from the Iranian nuclear issue. China imported 11% of its oil from Iran last year, amounting to roughly a third of Iran's oil exports.
See also Pressed by U.S., Asian Countries Look for Ways to Reduce Purchases of Iranian Oil - Keith Bradsher and Clifford Krauss
Under growing pressure from the U.S., some of Asia's largest economies are reluctantly looking for options to reduce the amount of oil they buy from Iran. The decision by South Korea and Japan to try to accommodate Washington's demands follows reports that China has already reduced its purchase of Iranian crude in the past month in a pricing dispute with Tehran.
China, Japan, India and South Korea together import more than 60% of Iranian oil exports. Traders from those countries have been putting out feelers to Russia, Vietnam, West Africa, Iraq and especially Saudi Arabia to export more oil to them, according to oil experts.
(New York Times)
- Arab Monitors "Buy Time" for Assad to Crush Opposition - Alistair Lyon
Syrian opposition figures said on Monday the presence of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria was only giving authorities more time to crush their opponents with violence. The League observers, who began work on the ground two weeks ago, have so far failed to stop the suppression of protests. Hundreds of people have been killed since Syria first agreed to the Arab League plan, most of whose provisions remain unfulfilled.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli, PA Negotiators Meet in Jordan - Elior Levy
Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met Monday in Amman, Jordan.
According to the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, the Palestinians presented Israel with their response to a document given to them at the end of the first round of talks last week. A senior Palestinian source said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to the talks in Amman out of appreciation for Jordan's efforts in the matter, but "he does not believe they will mature into true negotiations." (Ynet News)
See also Peace Talks Are Discussed in a Session in Jordan - Isabel Kershner
The encounter in Amman was kept at such a low profile that it was almost as if it had not happened at all - attesting to the minimal expectations each side has for progress.
(New York Times)
- Top U.S. Senator: An Attack on Israel Is an Attack on U.S. - Herb Keinon
"If you attack Israel, you are attacking the United States," visiting U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) said in Jerusalem on Monday. Inouye is America's senior senator, serving since 1963. "If one looks at most of this world, especially the Middle East, one country stands out as a foundation of stability and as a pillar of democracy. And at a time like this, when you have revolution in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, thank God we have Israel," he said.
Inouye, who lost an arm while fighting in Europe during World War II, and was later decorated with a Congressional Medal of Honor, dated his connection to Israel to 1951 when he was a salesman in Hawaii for Israel Bonds.
- Turkey and Iran Carve Up a Ruptured Arab World - Jason Pack and Martin van Creveld
Both the U.S. and Iran, mired in internal political and economic difficulties, are being outmaneuvered in the Middle East by an ascendant Turkey.
Following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq bemoaned their need for a regional patron to protect them from dominance by Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan also needs a conduit to export its oil to the West. The only country that can fulfill both roles is Turkey. That is why KRG officials, instead of supporting their ethnic brethren inside Turkey, have often sided with Ankara against the Kurdish separatist PKK.
All this explains why a bombing on Dec. 28, in which the Turks killed 35 Kurdish smugglers whom they mistook for terrorists, provoked little outrage in Iraqi Kurdistan. On the streets of Erbil, the capital, there are no signs of protests against Turkey. Instead, one notices Turkey's ubiquitous presence in the form of construction, investment, consumer goods, and tourists.
In the southern part of Iraq, the situation is just the opposite. There, a Shiite Arab buffer state, buttressed by Iran as a bulwark against Turkish, American, or Saudi encroachments, is being created. The last two weeks' events have removed any doubt that Prime Minister Maliki is "Iran's man" in Baghdad.
In post-Arab Spring North Africa, too, Turkey and Iran have essentially partitioned the resurgent Islamist movements between themselves. The Turks support the victorious "moderate" Islamists from Tunisia to Egypt. Iran backs the Salafist spoilers, even though they are Sunni.
Jason Pack researches Libyan history at Cambridge University. Martin van Creveld is a military historian.
(Christian Science Monitor)
- Is Libya Disintegrating as a State? - Jacques Neriah
The Libyan rebels were never an army; they were a patchwork of small local militia units, deserters from the regular army, and a smattering of former exiles with military experience. Moreover, the recognition extended by foreign powers to the National Transitional Council (NTC) was far in advance of the extent to which Libyans, even many of those in the forefront of the battle to oust Gaddafi, were willing to accept its lead. The fact that the rebel leadership had not established an alternative power center meant that the collapse of Gaddafi also meant an effective collapse of state authority.
The continuing presence of the militias in Libya is seen as a serious - and growing - threat to stability. Disarming them and persuading them to integrate within the national forces is now the greatest challenge facing the fledgling government as it tries to establish security before elections planned later this year.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Taking Energy Independence Seriously - Lawrence Kadish
In 2011, as Americans emptied their wallets at the gas pump and crude oil reached almost $100 a barrel, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia reported an $81.6 billion 2011 budget surplus. Trillions of dollars have left our economy to purchase oil mostly from OPEC nations that directly or indirectly support radical Islamic fundamentalists. The ominous linkage between cyclical recessions and our repeated failure to achieve energy independence and oil price stability has caused much hardship on our citizenry and severe damage to our economy. The historical evidence is clear. Whenever oil prices spiked as they did between 1972-1980, and then again between 2003-2008 and beyond, recessions in America followed.
Expert Advice on Iran - Clifford D. May (National Review)
- A trio of veteran Iran watchers recently discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime: Bernard Lewis, the greatest living historian of the Middle East; Uri Lubrani, Israel's envoy to Iran prior to the fall of the Shah; and Meir Dagan, head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency from 2002 to 2010.
- None of the three minimizes how dire will be the consequences should Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's finger come to rest on a nuclear trigger. The Iranian president subscribes to an extremist school of Shia theology that, General Dagan explained, looks forward to an apocalyptic war that would "hasten the arrival of the Mahdi," mankind's ultimate savior.
- It is the regime that rules Iran, more than its weapons, that constitutes the real problem. Changing the regime - not destroying its hardware - is the higher goal.
Based on the analyses of these experts, a coherent strategy should include the following specific policies:
- Tighten the sanctions noose to maximally increase pressure on the Iranian economy.
- Isolate the regime diplomatically.
- Continue to use high-tech, cutting-edge cyber weapons to further delay the Iranian nuclear-development program. More conventional clandestine measures also can play a role - things that go boom in the night and the untimely deaths of individuals contributing to illegal nuclear-weapons development.
- The threat of force must be credible. Iran's rulers should lose sleep over the possibility that a military strike - against their nuclear facilities or against them more directly - may be seen by Americans and Israelis as the least bad option.
- Help Syria break free of Iran. The loss of Syria would be a heavy blow to the Tehran regime.
- Iran's anti-regime opposition also deserves moral support and material assistance.
- In what has been misperceived as an "Arab Spring," the downtrodden masses in Egypt and elsewhere now may be coming to the conclusion that "Islam is the answer." Iranians, having tested that proposition over decades, know it is the wrong answer. Rule by mullahs has made them less free and poorer than they ever were under the Shah.
The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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