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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
September 20, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Assad's Sister Defects (Al Arabiya)
    Bushra al-Assad, the sister of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has fled Syria with her children, an informed source told Al Arabiya on Tuesday.
    Her husband Assef Shawqat, who was the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian Armed Forces, was killed on July 18, 2012.
    The Syrian source said Bushra had escaped Syria amid reports of "rising disputes" within the Alawite sect.
    "Some Alawite leaders are worried that the whole sect would eventually be implicated by President Assad in crimes against civilians," the source said.

Secret Flame: New Evidence of Mammoth Cyberspying Program Against Iran - Mark Clayton (Christian Science Monitor)
    Digital forensic sleuths at two antivirus companies - Kaspersky Labs and Symantec - on Monday announced new discoveries regarding a program called Flame, an extensive cyberespionage operation apparently directed at Iran.
    The new analysis reveals traces of at least three more malicious programs targeting Iran.
    The discovery hints at a cyberespionage operation vast in scope, with more than five gigabytes of data uploaded from more than 5,000 infected machines to just one of the two command and control servers in Europe each week.
    Most of the infected computers were in Iran, some in Sudan, and a handful in other countries.

Egypt's Mosques Are Up for Grabs - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    Under Mubarak, the message from government-controlled mosques came in the form of Friday sermons written by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and faxed to imams on its payroll. Anyone who wished to hear a different tune had to go to clandestine mosques operated by Islamist groups.
    Most clandestine mosques now operate openly, with new mosques being built with money from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states.
    At the same time, the new Egyptian government has opened discussions about privatizing the state-owned mosques.
    This would mean the firing of over 100,000 government preachers, who'd then have to persuade the boards of privatized mosques to hire them.
    In protest, hundreds of preachers went on strike last week, refusing to deliver the Friday sermon.

An Infographic: The Status of the Tribe (Times of Israel)
    One out of 514 people in the world is Jewish - less than 0.2% of mankind.
    The global Jewish population has reached 13.75 million, with a growth of 88,000 in the past year.
    Israel's life expectancy is among the highest in the world. Life expectancy for men is ranked second (after Sweden).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Sen. Kerry Warns Iraq over Iran Flights into Syria - John H. Cushman, Jr.
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) warned Wednesday that aid to Iraq might be made contingent on cutting off flights shuttling military supplies from Iran to the repressive government in Syria. The administration has been protesting for at least a month the resumption in July of flights that Iraq's government has allowed to cross uninspected over Iraqi territory to Syria from Iran, in violation of international sanctions.
        "It just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country, and they're working against our interest so overtly," Kerry said. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Official: Benghazi Was a Terrorist Attack - Josh Rogin
    The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was in fact "a terrorist attack" and the U.S. government has indications that members of al-Qaeda were directly involved, Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. "I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy," he said. "It appears that individuals who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded....What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was significant advance planning or coordination for this attack."  (Foreign Policy)
  • U.S. Aid to Egypt Stalled - Anne Gearan and Michael Birnbaum
    Anti-American protests in Cairo, and Egypt's initially clumsy response, have temporarily halted talks about a proposed $1 billion in debt relief and other aid to Egypt, U.S. officials said Monday. No new aid is likely to be approved for Egypt until after the U.S. presidential election, and talks aimed at breaking a logjam on spending funds already approved are on hold, the officials said. American assistance to Egypt had already been in some jeopardy as a result of the country's crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups in February. (Washington Post)
        See also Temporary Spending Bill Permits U.S. Aid to Flow to Egypt Despite Anti-America Protests (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Arab Spring Investor Excitement Fizzles Out amid Anti-U.S. Backlash - Eman El-Shenawi
    Excitement over new economic prospects in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring has come to an abrupt standstill. "The recent events will bring foreign investors to reconsider their assessment of risks associated with the political transition in Arab spring countries," said Alia Moubayed, senior economist at Barclays Capital. "Investors may therefore put on hold or delay their planned investment in the short to medium term, notably in Tunisia and Libya, but to a lesser extent in Egypt where the government's action to limit the damage of such attacks was bolder."  (Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Conditions Don't Exist for Nuclear-Free Mideast - Herb Keinon
    Shaul Chorev, head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, told the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday: "The concept of a region free of WMD that has never been put to the test even in the most peaceful regions of the world is certainly much less applicable to the current volatile and hostile Middle East region."
        "Any attempt to reach this goal requires a significant transformation of regional trends and the creation of some elementary preconditions." Chorev listed three preconditions: First, that such a process be launched only when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time; second, that the call for this zone come from within the region; and third, that it not be imposed from the outside. Obviously, he said, these conditions do not presently exist. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Thwarts Attack from Gaza
    Israeli aircraft on Wednesday targeted two terror operatives in Gaza affiliated with the "Defenders of al-Aqsa," a terrorist group sponsored by Hamas. Anis Abu Mahmoud el-Anin was in the final stages of preparing to carry out a terror attack against Israeli civilians. Anis was involved in a number of attempted terror attacks that included smuggling explosive devices into Israel via the Israel-Egypt border, in addition to directing certain terror activity in the West Bank.
        Ashraf Mahmoud Salah, a member of the Resistance Committees, in the past admitted to transferring terrorists into Egypt in order to carry out a suicide attack in Israel. He was also involved in the buying and selling of weapons. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Anti-Christian, Anti-Zionist Egyptian Films in the Works - Roi Kais
    Egypt's Salafi group al-Gama'a al-Islamiya declared Tuesday that it will form a new movement to produce anti-Zionist and anti-Christian films. The Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm quoted Shura Council member Assem Abdel Maged as explaining that the movement will focus on producing films on Christianity in Europe that will delve into the questions of why "many believers have forsaken it." Films on Judaism and Zionism are also in the works. (Ynet News)
        See also Insulted, Muslims Spread Hatred - Shaul Rosenfeld
    The same Muslim society that turns violent whenever its holy figures are disparaged, revels in the horrific portrayals of Jews and Judaism in Arab media. Iranian movies and Egyptian television shows contain hateful anti-Semitic motifs, endorsed by respected Muslim academics, that the Muslim viewer "eats up" enthusiastically.
        The people of the Levant can view an esoteric film as an excuse to launch a pogrom against the infidels from the West and at the same time accept fatwas describing Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Mahmoud Abbas' UN Gambit - Editorial
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been digging himself into a political hole since early last year, when he announced a strategy of seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood by the UN and a reconciliation with rival Hamas. The recognition bid flopped last fall in the UN Security Council, where the Palestinians failed to obtain even the eight votes needed for a simple majority.
        During this time Abbas has mostly refused negotiations with Israel. Israel has offered the PA a number of concessions in exchange for renewing the peace process, including prisoner releases and a potentially lucrative natural gas concession, but Abbas has not agreed. Instead, he will renew the UN initiative. Not just the Obama administration but also friendly Arab governments, such as that of Jordan, have counseled Abbas that the push for recognition would be self-defeating. Negotiations with Israel are the only realistic path to Palestinian statehood. Abbas' refusal to accept that fact might prove to be his undoing. (Washington Post)
  • Are Radical Imams Going to Redefine Freedom of Speech? - Alan M. Dershowitz
    Religious fanatics who are easily offended by those outside of their religion who violate the rules of their religion cannot serve as censors in democratic societies. The threat or fear of violence should not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech.
        People who have come of age in repressive regimes which do not permit any expressions disfavored by the government may not understand that by not censoring such speech, the American government does not place its imprimatur upon it. For example, when Iranian newspapers publish anti-Semitic diatribes, the views expressed in those diatribes are the views of the government. Not so with democratic states. It is probably true that more anti-Semitic material is published in the U.S. than in Iran, simply because so much is published and almost none of it is subject to any kind of censorship. (Gatestone Institute)

The America of the Arab Street - Ed Husain (New York Times)

  • "Obama, Obama, we are all Osama" - the crowd chanted outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. In Egypt, 75% of Muslims do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks, according to a 2011 Pew poll. Many believe that it was either Israel, the U.S. government, or both. The idea that the U.S. attacked itself is buttressed by preachers in mosques, on satellite television channels and in glossy Arabic books.
  • The West is viewed through a hodgepodge of conspiracy theories, half-truths and a selective reading of history. The U.S. and the West are widely seen as waging a war on Muslims. In most Arab countries, citizens require government permission to produce films. For many Arabs, it is inconceivable that U.S. citizens are not under the same controls.
  • Attacking the U.S. has become part of the political culture in much of the Middle East. To challenge it is to be a labeled a "sellout," a "traitor," or a "Zionist agent," and to court social isolation. Yet the same U.S. embassies that were attacked were surrounded almost daily by long lines of people applying for visas to enter the U.S.
  • Today, America's Muslims are freer and more prosperous than Muslims in any other part of the world. Their daily lives show that the narrative about a U.S.-Islam war is a myth.

    The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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