Documents Reveal Al-Qaeda's Plans for Seizing Cruise Ships, Carnage in Europe - Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister (CNN)
Hundreds of al-Qaeda documents were discovered by German cryptologists embedded inside a pornographic movie on a memory disk belonging to a suspected al-Qaeda operative arrested in Berlin last year.
They revealed future plots including the seizing of cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants in the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008.
Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents.
See also Officials Watch for Terrorists with Body Bombs on U.S.-Bound Planes - Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and Rhonda Schwartz
American and European authorities said Monday they fear al-Qaeda may soon try to explode U.S.-bound aircraft with explosives hidden inside the bodies of terrorists.
Expert: Islamists May Control the Opposition Syrian National Council - John Rosenthal (National Review)
At a meeting in Istanbul on April 1, the so-called Friends of Syria, including the U.S., recognized the Syrian National Council (SNC) as "a legitimate representative of all Syrians."
But who is the Syrian National Council? Although the chairman and most recognizable face is the secular Paris-based political scientist Burhan Ghalioun, it is openly acknowledged that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is a major force within the council.
The Belgian Syria expert Thomas Pierret, a lecturer in contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh, estimates that "around half" of the SNC's members are Islamists.
According to Pierret, moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood controls the council's "commission on humanitarian aid" and thereby the distribution of SNC funds in Syria.
50 Attacks on Sinai Police Since Egypt Uprising - Yousry el Badry and
Ahmed Abu Draa (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
Sinai police have been attacked about 50 times by armed Palestinian jihadi groups and a local branch of al-Qaeda since the 25 January uprising, according to security sources.
Areas such as Sheikh Zuwayed, central Sinai, and Rafah were now outside the control of Egyptian security forces.
The Palestinian militant groups Jaljalat, Army of Islam, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as well as Al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, were named as being behind the attacks.
Ancient Seal Found in Jerusalem - Matti Friedman (Times of Israel)
A small stone seal at least 2,600 years old and bearing a Hebrew name has been found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.
According to the ancient Hebrew inscription, the seal belonged to a man named Matanyahu, meaning "gift of God."
"Finding something like this is like getting regards from a real person who lived here thousands of years ago," said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Eli Shukron.
Workers excavating a Roman-era drainage tunnel along the western side of the Temple Mount uncovered a structure from the time of the First Temple (before 586 BCE) and removed rubble that was then sifted by volunteers, resulting in the seal's discovery.
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- Iran Is Top Contingency in U.S. War Plans - Rowan Scarborough
War planning for Iran is now the most pressing contingency scenario for the U.S. military.
U.S. Central Command believes it can destroy or significantly degrade Iran's conventional armed forces in about three weeks using air and sea strikes, according to a defense source.
Such strikes are an option in response to Tehran's striking U.S. and international ships in the Persian Gulf and attempting to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The Pentagon now is conducting a surge of forces in the Gulf. It is maintaining two aircraft carriers in the region and is increasing the number of mine-detection ships and helicopters.
- A Tiny Island Is Where Iran Makes a Stand - Thomas Erdbrink
For many Iranians, a renewed claim by the United Arab Emirates to the tiny island of Abu Musa, a four-square-mile spit of sand in the Persian Gulf with about 2,000 inhabitants, arouses strong nationalistic feelings at a time of general hopelessness over the devastating impact of a grinding economy, foreign sanctions and a feeling of unprecedented isolation.
Ahmadinejad's visit to Abu Musa last month prompted angry reactions from Arab states on the western shore of the Persian Gulf, which rejected his assertion that the island is occupied by Iran.
According to a 1971 memorandum of understanding between Iran and the emirate of Sharjah, the island and its energy resources are to be divided between the two. By agreeing to the pact, the tiny emirate prevented an invasion by Iran, which two days earlier had taken two other disputed islands, Greater and Lesser Tunb, which were even smaller and uninhabited.
(New York Times)
- Calls for U.S. to Prevent Turkish Block of Israel from NATO Summit
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a prominent U.S.-based Jewish advocacy organization, has called on the U.S. government to get Turkey's veto lifted on Israel's participation in an upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago. AJC President Robert Elman and Executive Director David Harris stated in a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday that the U.S. should not allow Israel, its "most reliable and capable ally in the region," to remain at arm's length from NATO due to Turkey's position.
"[I]t is our hope that...the political position of one member of this vital 28-nation alliance will not be allowed to hinder strategically advantageous cooperation with Israel - the Middle East's sole democracy."
Last week, reports appeared that Ankara has also objected to EU participation in the Chicago summit unless the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also allowed to be present.
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- Power Inside Hamas Shifts to Gaza Leadership - Avi Issacharoff
Hamas leaders have decided to transfer critical areas of authority - previously controlled by political bureau head Khaled Meshal (who was based in Damascus and now Qatar) - to the leadership in Gaza, including control of the organization's budget and of its military wing.
Gaza has become Hamas' main decision-making center over the past several months.
Meshal's position in Hamas declined steeply after the movement's leadership in Gaza rejected the "Doha agreement," Meshal's efforts to achieve a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. (Ha'aretz)
- Israel Broadens Anti-Missile Defenses - Lilach Shoval
Israel activated a fourth Iron Dome anti-missile defense battery last month to protect the greater Tel Aviv region. The IDF has warned that terrorist organizations possess rockets that can reach Tel Aviv. A fifth battery is expected to be ready early next year, with a sixth battery to be ready a few months later.
See also U.S. Attaches Strings to Israeli Iron Dome Funds - Barbara Opall-Rome
Some American gift packages still come tied with strings.
In exchange for $680 million for Israel's Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, Washington wants "appropriate rights" to the Israeli-developed technology and U.S.-based coproduction of the system's high-speed intercepting missiles. (Defense News)
- Report: Turkey Foils Iranian Terror Plot Against Israelis - Michal Shmulovich
Israel downgraded its travel warning for Israelis heading to Turkey on Tuesday, only weeks after the National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Bureau had warned of an "imminent threat" - after Turkey reportedly foiled an Iranian terror plot. Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that the Mossad had given its Turkish counterparts information on an Iranian effort to attack Israelis, and that the Turks had acted effectively behind the scenes to thwart the plot.
(Times of Israel)
- Washington Mulls Upcoming Iran Nuclear Talks - Barbara Slavin and Laura Rozen
U.S. and European officials have said that only tangible progress in the talks due to resume in Baghdad May 23 could convince them not to fully implement measures this summer that will bar Iran from selling oil to Europe and make it harder for Iran to receive payment from remaining customers.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says this is the time to intensify sanctions. He notes that there are 8-10 Iranian banks that have not been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department and 14 Iranian banks that have not been barred by SWIFT, the organization that facilitates international financial transactions.
Sources briefed on the West's diplomatic deliberations have described the current thinking as presenting Iran with a menu of options. If Iran agrees, for example, to suspend 20%-enrichment, send out its stockpile of that uranium and stop operations at Fordo, then it would get X, Y, and Z: hypothetically, fuel for the Tehran research reactor, suspension of EU oil sanctions and perhaps spare Boeing parts for its civilian aircraft. If Iran agrees to just one or two of the concessions, it might get just fuel for the reactor.
The lead U.S. negotiator to the P5+1, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, has been given discretion to negotiate based on such a menu of options.
- Palestinian TV Station Sued as Journalists Fear Media Crackdown - Harriet Sherwood
Wattan TV in the West Bank is being sued for $1 million over an investigation into alleged corruption at a Palestinian university. It claimed that the son of a senior PA official was offered a place at the university despite having failed to meet academic requirements. The station, which says it has evidence to support its allegations, fears that some of its executives could face prison sentences.
It follows the resignation last week of Palestinian communications minister Mashour Abu Daqa in protest at the PA's blocking of at least eight websites that criticized President Mahmoud Abbas.
He said the closure of the sites was "bad for the image of the [PA] in the modern world."
According to Muamar Orabi, the general director of Wattan TV, media repression is growing. "We are facing the worst time for independent journalists in the PA. Journalists are being arrested just for raising their voices and speaking freely." (Guardian-UK)
- Benzion Netanyahu: Jews Are a Remnant of a Remnant - Jeffrey Goldberg
The historian Benzion Netanyahu, who died Monday at 102, was sometimes asked to explain the miracle of Jewish survival through millenniums of persecution. Netanyahu - the father of Israel's prime minister, Benjamin - would answer in a way his interlocutors did not at all expect.
"The Jews didn't survive," he would say. About 1,900 years ago, he would explain, there were about 9 million Jews in a world population of roughly 300 million. Today, there are about 13 million Jews in a world of 7 billion. How is it that the number of Jews has stayed essentially stagnant, even as global population has grown exponentially?
Persecution, he explained, has driven the Jews nearly to extinction. So many murdered, so many forcibly converted to Christianity and Islam, so many choosing the dubious path of assimilation as a defense against hatred and isolation. The Jews of today, he said, are a remnant of a remnant.
Inciting Genocide Is a Crime - Robert Bernstein, Irwin Cotler and Stuart Robinowitz (Wall Street Journal)
- Iran's genocidal anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric constitutes one of the most serious crimes under international law.
- The UN's Genocide Convention outlaws not only acts of genocide but "incitement" to genocide, an offense whether or not genocide has yet occurred. The convention's goal is to prevent genocide before it takes place. Tragically, warnings of impending atrocities in Rwanda were ignored by the international community. As a result, 800,000 innocent civilians were slaughtered in a genocide that could have been prevented.
- Iran has given the world ample warning. A website affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared in February that Iran would be justified in killing all Israeli Jews - which Tehran's long-range missiles could accomplish in nine minutes, boasted the site. Khamenei has called Israel a "cancerous tumor that must be removed" and declared that there is "justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm."
- Also in February, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Tehran, as billboards in the city declared that it is every Muslim's duty to "wipe out" Israel. "If all the Jews gathered in Israel, it would save us the trouble of going after them world-wide," Nasrallah has said. "It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on the earth."
- No free-speech law condones threats of mass murder. The Nuremberg tribunal convicted and executed Nazi newspaper publisher Julius Streicher for inciting the murder of Europe's Jews, even though he hadn't committed murders directly.
- The threat of criminal prosecution before the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court should be added to existing diplomatic and economic pressures meant to deter terrorism and nuclear-weapons development by Tehran.
Mr. Bernstein was founder and chair of Human Rights Watch from 1978-98. He is now the chair of Advancing Human Rights (AHR). Mr. Cotler, emeritus professor of law at McGill University, is a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. Mr. Robinowitz, a former adjunct faculty member at Yale Law School, is a board member of AHR.
See also Referral of Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the Charge of Incitement to Commit Genocide - Justus Reid Weiner, Esq., with Amb. Meir Rosenne, Prof. Elie Wiesel, Amb. Dore Gold, Irit Kohn, Adv., Amb. Eytan Bentsur, and MK Dan Naveh (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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