U.S. Partners with Israel for Missile Defense Exercise - Jim Garamone (U.S. Department of Defense)
More than 3,500 American service members will join with Israeli allies for Exercise Austere Challenge 2012 in Israel next week, U.S. and Israeli officials said Wednesday.
U.S. service members will man Patriot anti-missile systems, an Aegis ballistic missile defense ship and various other air defense systems.
The Israelis will put more than 1,000 service members into the field and will test the Iron Dome and Arrow 2 systems. The Israelis will also tie the developing David's Sling system into the scenarios.
Most of the three-week exercise will be simulation, but some training will entail live-fire.
Libya Singles Out Islamist as a Commander in Consulate Attack - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
Libyan authorities have singled out Ahmed Abu Khattala, a leader of the Benghazi-based Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, as a commander in the attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.
But his leadership would not rule out participation or encouragement by militants connected to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian Islamic insurgency.
Abu Khattala was a member of the Islamist opposition under Gaddafi and was imprisoned. Unlike most of the other Islamist prisoners, however, Abu Khattala never renounced violence as means of seeking political change.
He was let out of prison only last year, along with a batch of other political prisoners released in a futile bid by the government to appease the nascent uprising.
Man in Iran-Backed D.C. Assassination Plot Pleads Guilty - Aaron Katersky, Lee Ferran and Richard Esposito (ABC News)
Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar, accused of plotting with the Iranian military to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty Wednesday.
The U.S. said Arbabsiar, 58,
was working for Iran's elite Quds force when he attempted to hire hitmen from the Zetas Mexican drug cartel to bomb a D.C. restaurant frequented by the Saudi ambassador.
Iran Further Expanding Enrichment Capacity - Fredrik Dahl (Reuters)
Iran is believed to be further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground, Western diplomats say.
"We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid," said a diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
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- Terrorist Tries to Bomb New York Federal Reserve Bank, Sought Al-Qaeda Contacts - Richard Esposito, Jason Ryan and Pierre Thomas
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, a Bangladeshi national, on Wednesday parked a van filled with what he believed to be 1,000 pounds of explosives outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, and was arrested after he tried to detonate the "bomb" with a cellphone. Authorities said he was the target of a law enforcement sting. Nafis came to the U.S. in January in hopes of conducting a terror attack on U.S. soil. He tried to recruit others to form a terror cell inside the U.S., and actively sought out al-Qaeda contacts.
See also Terrorist Attempted to Strike New York's Financial District on Behalf of Al-Qaeda
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly stated: "Al-Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field. We are up to 15 plots and counting since 9/11, with the Federal Reserve now added to a list of iconic targets that previously included the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Stock Exchange, and Citicorp Center. After 11 years without a successful attack, it's understandable if the public becomes complacent. But that's a luxury law enforcement can't afford." The defendant has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda.
(FBI New York Field Office)
- Syrian Rebels Get Missiles - Nour Malas
Some Syrian rebel factions have obtained advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, a development that could alter the Syrian war's trajectory and fan U.S. concerns that such weapons could end up in the hands of anti-Western Islamist militias. Video footage on the Internet this week appears to show rebels in Aleppo using heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles. The weapons have been smuggled into Syria over the past two months through Turkey and Lebanon, according to Syrian rebels and those who supply them arms.
"Northern Syria is awash with advanced antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The situation has changed very quickly," said a Syrian involved in weapons procurement. Most of the shoulder-fired missiles have come from Libya, smuggled into the country through the Turkish border, several rebel coordinators said. Others have been supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Video: Free Syrian Army Downs Syrian Military Helicopter - Raheem Kassam (Commentator)
- Hizbullah Launching Rocket Attacks from Lebanon at Rebel Positions in Syria
Hizbullah has been accused of intervening directly in Syria's civil war by launching rocket attacks over the border from Lebanon in support of President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
"They are concentrating on hitting the villages where the Free Syrian Army are, to weaken them before launching a ground attack," said Abu Obeida, a Lebanese resident of the border town of al-Qaa. "I have seen the rockets firing; they pass over your head."
Driving in the northern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, 10 miles from the frontier with Syria, we could hear the sound of rocket fire, with the salvoes coming in waves.
Residents in the Syrian border town of Al-Qusair said the attacks began six weeks ago. "Hizbullah does this almost every night....I have seen the missiles coming from Lebanon," said Ahmed, a Syrian activist.
- Palestinians Urged by Britain to Delay "Non-Member State" Bid at UN - Harriet Sherwood
Britain is urging the Palestinian leadership to delay its bid for upgraded status at the UN General Assembly, warning that the move is likely to be detrimental to U.S. re-engagement with the peace process following next month's presidential election.
British diplomats have told Palestinian officials that a vote in the weeks following the U.S. election would significantly decrease the chances of the next U.S. administration taking steps to get peace negotiations restarted. They are also warning of potentially serious financial consequences for the Palestinian Authority if it goes ahead. (Guardian-UK)
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- Terrorists Freed in Shalit Deal Resume Terror Activity - Alex Fishman
Dozens of Palestinian prisoners who were released a year ago as part of the deal that freed IDF soldier Gilad Shalit have resumed terrorist activity. Many of those deported to Gaza have joined Hamas' leadership, while others are actively developing weapons and firing rockets at Israel. Furthermore, some are recruiting new terror cells in the West Bank, including one Hebron cell that planted a bomb in Jerusalem and planned to kidnap an IDF soldier.
- Russia Protects Israel from UNESCO Condemnations - Stuart Winer
Russia's envoy to UNESCO intervened on Wednesday to defer voting on a series of condemnations of Israel proposed by Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Syria. Russia's envoy presented an alternative plan stipulating that the resolutions be delayed for six months during which time negotiations would be held with Israel. The Russian initiative passed by 28 to 23. (Times of Israel)
- Al-Qaeda's Resurgence - Max Boot
Much attention has been focused in recent days on the emergence of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists as a serious threat in Libya. There is also growing evidence of al-Qaeda's reemergence in Iraq. The Associated Press reports that "the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago - from about 1,000 to 2,500 fighters. And it is carrying out an average of 140 attacks each week across Iraq, up from 75 attacks each week earlier this year, according to Pentagon data." There are said to be as many as ten "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" training sites in the western deserts of Iraq. Other al-Qaeda-associated organizations are gaining strength in Mali and Yemen. They are also making fresh inroads in Syria.
It is true that "al-Qaeda central" - the organization headquartered in Pakistan and headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri - does appear to be on its heels; certainly it is less of a threat than it was in the days when Osama bin Laden was alive. But al-Qaeda has managed to spread its tentacles to other corners of the greater Middle East.
- Tensions among Alawites Pose New Challenge for Assad - Liz Sly
Rumblings of discontent within Syria's Alawite minority are presenting a new challenge to President Bashar al-Assad. A shootout between members of the extended Assad family in the president's ancestral home town of Qardaha late last month and the detention of a prominent Alawite activist by the regime offer hints of that unease. "The Alawites are critical for Assad's survival. He wouldn't survive a day without their complete support, so the fact that we are seeing tensions is significant," said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. "Most Alawites are upset with the regime, and they feel Assad is dragging their sect into a conflict they can't eventually win." (Washington Post)
See also Syria's Business Elite Feels Squeeze of War, Sanctions
Syria's wealthy business elite, long cultivated by President Bashar Assad as a support for his regime, are seeing their businesses pummeled by the bloody civil war.
Telling Israel Like It Is - in Arabic - Philippe Assouline (Times of Israel)
- Boshra Khalaila, a secular, independent and patriotic Israeli Arab woman, grew up in the Arab village of Deir Hana, in the Galilee. Her first contact with Jewish Israelis came at age 18 when she enrolled in Haifa University. "I am a liberal, free woman, with all the rights that I could enjoy. I compare myself to other women my age in Jordan, the territories, Egypt, any Arab country. They don't have the rights that I have: freedom of expression, the right to vote. They are forced into marriage at a young age, and religious head covering, despite their own convictions. With me it's the opposite; I have everything."
- When I asked her why she feels the need to speak up for Israel so publicly, she answered:
"To sacrifice from myself for the country that I live in and that gives me rights, that's a natural price."
- Boshra was part of a team of five people, including another Israeli Arab and a Druze, who were sent to South Africa with "Faces of Israel" during Israel Apartheid Week. "I study in the same educational institutions, ride the same buses, shop in the same supermarkets. Everything that they say is absolutely false. And I do feel that I belong to my country."
- At an Islamic, Arabic-language radio station in Johannesburg, the interviewer, a religious Saudi man, asked her why Israel doesn't let Muslims pray or go to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
"I told them that in my own small village in the Galilee there are not only one but two mosques and two imams who both get a monthly salary from the state. The interviewer was in shock. I added that I could go pray at Al Aqsa mosque at will, freely."
- "I said to him: 'In Saudi Arabia, can a woman drive a car?' He said no. I said: 'I can.' And he was silent. I asked: 'Can a woman in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia meet a man and get to know him before getting married or is she just forced into marriage at a young age?' He said no, she can't. I said: 'I can.'"
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