Report #1: A Militia to Protect the Egyptian Regime - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
According to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, the head of the al-Quds Force, the elite force of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, visited Egypt secretly some weeks ago.
He had apparently been invited to demonstrate how to set up a special, elite unit - distinct from the army - faithful to President Morsi's regime.
There have been reports in recent months that the Muslim Brotherhood was forming a special militia to protect the regime and tackle its opponents and that it was already operational.
See also Report #2: A Militia to Protect the Egyptian Regime - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
Reports in a number of Egyptian opposition media outlets claim that Hamas dispatched 7,000 militiamen from Gaza to Egypt to protect President Mohamed Morsi, who is currently facing a popular uprising.
The Gulf newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej published what it described as "secret documents" proving that Hamas, with the financial backing of Qatar, had plans to send hundreds of militiamen to Egypt to help Morsi's regime.
The reports have been strongly denied by Hamas officials. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar lost his temper during an interview with an Egyptian TV station, accusing supporters of the Mubarak regime of being behind the reports depicting Hamas as a terrorist organization helping President Morsi to kill Egyptians.
Nevertheless, the repeated accusations against Hamas show that many Egyptians continue to see the radical Islamist movement as a threat to their national security.
During last week's street clashes in Cairo, anti-Morsi demonstrators torched Hamas and Qatari flags. They also chanted slogans condemning Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for bringing Hamas militiamen to suppress Egyptian protesters.
Israeli Surfers Rescue Children in Hawaii (Jerusalem Post)
Three Israeli surfers went to the aid of eight children struggling in the waters off Hawaii on Saturday, Israel Channel 2 TV reported.
Tzvika Elias, Yair Naftali and Gabi Liptz saw a group of children aged 12-14 who had gotten into difficulties in an area of four-meter-high waves.
"As we neared the children we saw that they had been swept out to sea and were being pounded by the huge waves," said Elias, 30.
Naftali said it took 40 exhausting minutes to rescue all of the children.
A Matter of Perspective - Yaakov Ahimeir (Israel Hayom)
A textbook taught in Palestinian Authority schools states that the "ancient history of Palestine bore witness to the invasion of the Israelites, led by Joshua, and to their battle with the Canaanites and the Palestinians."
Thus, Joshua and his army conquered Palestine, which, according to the PA textbook, existed in the 12th century BCE (if not earlier).
"King David fought the Canaanites and the Palestinians and built his kingdom on part of the Palestinian land," claims a Palestinian textbook.
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- Israel Will Act Against Syria Arms Transfers - Joel Greenberg and Babak Dehghanpisheh
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence who directs the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said in an interview that Israel has defined four types of weapons whose transfer to militant groups would not be tolerated: advanced air defense systems, ballistic missiles, sophisticated shore-to-sea missiles and chemical weapons.
In accordance with this policy, Yadlin said, "any time Israel will have reliable intelligence that this is going to be transferred from Syria to Lebanon, it will act," although decisions would be subject to assessments of the military value of the attack, the risk of escalation and the positions of foreign powers. Israeli responses would be weighed each time and "not happen automatically." The real dilemma, Yadlin said, is not whether to attack, but whether inaction would mean a greater threat later. (Washington Post)
- Iran and Hizbullah Build Militia Networks in Syria in Event that Assad Falls - Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
Iran and Hizbullah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to protect their interests in the event that President Assad's government falls.
A senior Obama administration official sited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. "It's a big operation....The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on."
"Syria is basically disintegrating as a nation, similar to how Lebanon disintegrated in the '70s to ethnic components, and as Iraq did," said Paul Salem, director of the Beirut-based Mideast Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It's going to be very hard to put Syria the nation back together." (Washington Post)
- Iran Nuclear Fuel Move May Avert Mid-Year Crisis - Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl
Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say, slowing a growth in stockpiles of material that could be used to make weapons. Tehran could otherwise have amassed sufficient stock by June to hit a "red line" set by Israel.
Iran averted a potential crisis last year by converting around 100 kg. of its 20%-enriched uranium into fuel - prompting some analysts to believe it was deliberately keeping below the threshold for potential weapons-grade material set by Israel, while still advancing its nuclear technology.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Obama Visit to Focus on Iran, Syria, Peace Process
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "I welcome President Obama's intention to visit Israel. This will be a very important visit that will emphasize the strong alliance between Israel and the U.S....The President and I have...agreed that we will discuss three main subjects: Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, the unstable situation in Syria and its consequences for the security of the region and...efforts to advance the peace process between us and the Palestinians." (Israel Prime Minister's Office)
- Hizbullah Moves into South Lebanon Villages - Ron Ben-Yishai
In January, looking into south Lebanon, I noticed that hundreds of new buildings had been built in Bint Jbeil, Maroun al-Ras, Aita al-Shaab and Barmish.
Even without binoculars it was evident that the Shiite communities have expanded significantly compared with the few Christian-Maronite villages in the area, which remained the same size. Hizbullah has moved from its bases in "nature preserves" to the villages from which it can launch rocket or other attacks against Israel.
Hizbullah purchased land on the outskirts of the villages, built homes and offered them to poor Shiite families at bargain prices, on condition that a rocket launcher would be placed in one of the rooms or in the basement, along with a number of rockets, which will be fired at predetermined targets in Israel when the order is given.
In addition, Hizbullah has set up camouflaged defense positions in villages which contain advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles it had received from Syria. Hizbullah has also planted large explosive devices along the access roads. In this manner some 180 Shiite villages between the Zahrani River and the border with Israel have been converted into fighting zones for the next conflict with Israel.
- IDF: Former PA Security Official Jibril Rajoub Behind Escalating Clashes in West Bank - Yohai Ofer
In recent weeks, Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub, a former PA cabinet minister and head of the Preventive Security Force, has been initiating violent Palestinian demonstrations and setting up illegal outposts in the West Bank. IDF Central Command has identified Rajoub as the person behind the nationalist stance adopted by the PA, which is seen in increasing incidents involving roadblocks, rock-throwing and firebombs targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians. Rajoub's VIP status, which enabled him to travel freely throughout the West Bank with armed guards, has been cancelled.
- The Ayatollah Always Says No - Editorial
Why does Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
keep saying no? The conventional wisdom is that previous U.S. offers weren't generous enough, or that the wrong president was in the White House, or that Iran wants only to deal directly with the U.S. and not in multilateral forums. Each of these theories has been tested and shown to be false.
A more persuasive explanation is that Iran really wants a bomb. The regime believes that Gaddafi would still be in power had he not given up his nuclear program in 2003. Khamenei also fears a "velvet revolution" scenario, in which more normal ties with the West threaten the ideological foundations of the Islamic Republic. Confrontation with America is in this regime's DNA. (Wall Street Journal)
- Pollard's Punishment Was Disproportionate to His Offense - Lawrence Korb
A 1987 CIA damage assessment concerning Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty in 1985 to forwarding classified material to the Israeli government and was sentenced to life in prison, was released in December. This document shows that CIA debriefers said Pollard cooperated with them fully and in good faith. Moreover, they acknowledge that Pollard did not divulge the most sensitive U.S. national security programs. Pollard provided intelligence only on the Soviet Union's activities in the Middle East, the Arab states and Pakistan.
Pollard deserved to be prosecuted, but he does not deserve to be in prison 27 years later. These newly declassified documents make it clear that it is time to let him go.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and was assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985.
(New York Daily News)
- The Pharaoh Fell, But His Poisonous Legacy Lingers - Fouad Ajami
Two years ago, on Feb. 11, 2011, the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak stepped aside after three decades.
The Muslim Brotherhood sat out the early and decisive phase of the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square. Yet the Brotherhood had no scruples about "hijacking" a revolution that was not theirs. The annals of revolutions the world over bear testimony to the truth that the rule of the moderates in times of revolutions is always undone by the ascendancy of the extremists.
From afar, those with a superficial knowledge of Egypt think of it as a country willing to slip under the yoke of the Brotherhood. But Egypt is a skeptical, weary country; it wears its faith lightly, and its people have an innate suspicion of those who overdo their religious zeal.
Nowadays freedom is out of fashion in American official thinking, and the tumult in Arab lands serves as an alibi for abdication. But we should know that the bargain with the Arab dictatorships brought our way the jihadists. Two products of Mubarak's Egypt were the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the psychopath Mohammad Atta, who led the death pilots of 9/11. It was folly and naivete to think that we really knew and could befriend the tyrants.
The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.
(Wall Street Journal)
A Demographic Shift in the Muslim World - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
- According to Nicholas Eberstadt, a leading demographer and a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a "sea change" is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a "flight from marriage" among Arab women.
- Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41% between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33% decline for the world as a whole. 22 Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50% or more.
- "Fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth."
- Fertility in Iran declined 70% over a 30-year period, "one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history," falling below replacement level by 2000.
- The Arab world may be experiencing a youth bulge now, fueling popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. But as Eberstadt notes, what's ahead over the next generation will probably be declines in the number of working-age adults and rapidly aging populations.
See also Fertility Decline in the Muslim World - Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah (American Enterprise Institute)
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