Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 12, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

The War on Terrorism in the Sahara: Saudi and Pakistani Missionaries Spread Militant Islam - Craig S. Smith (New York Times)
    The American campaign against terrorism is opening a new front in a region that military officials fear could become the next base for al-Qaeda - the largely ungoverned territory stretching from the Horn of Africa to the Western Sahara's Atlantic coast.
    Generals at the U.S. European Command, which oversees the area, say the region contains well-financed bands of Islamic militants recruiting, training, and arming themselves.
    "These are not local extremists," one American official said. "These are people from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, who are essentially Islamic missionaries preaching a form of Islam that is very, very different from what these countries want or grew up with."
    The U.S. is dispatching Special Operations forces to train and equip soldiers in countries like Mali and Mauritania in West Africa.

More Iraqis Accepting U.S.-Trained Forces - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
    Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad and Fallujah report that the views of their fellow Iraqis - tired of insecurity, car bombs, and kidnappings - are shifting.
    The number of attacks against Iraqi security forces has dropped in recent weeks.
    "Now the people are beginning to understand that [Iraqi forces] are serving the country; before they thought they were all agents serving the Americans," says Shakir Jafar Jassim, a member of a local district council.
    "Things started changing in the last month," says Emad Abbas Qassem, a lieutenant in the Facility Protection Service. "Now people are encouraging me, because they want protection for sewage lines and water plants."

Son of Slain Chechen President Blames Wahhabism ( Africa)
    The son of slain pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov on Tuesday called on his countrymen to combat terrorism and the "terrible evil" of radical Islam.
    "I call on the Chechen nation not to give up, to fight Wahhabism, this terrible evil," he said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Soldiers Search for Remains After Bomb Kills Six
    Israeli troops conducted a grim house-to-house search for their comrades' remains in Gaza City Tuesday night after Palestinian militants blew up an Israeli troop carrier and then said they had made off with body parts of the six soldiers killed inside. Seven Palestinians were also killed and dozens were wounded during the raid to destroy weapons factories. Palestinians said they hoped to trade the soldiers' body parts for prisoners held by Israel, but Israel immediately rejected any such exchange.
        Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Sharon, said the troops would stay in the Zeitun neighborhood "until we exhaust all the possibilities to return the bodies, to bring them to a decent burial in Israel.'' Al Jazeera, the Arabic television channel, broadcast what it said was two Islamic Jihad militants displaying what they called the head of an Israeli soldier, resting on a table in front of them. (New York Times)
        See also Palestinian Militants Put Bodies of Israelis on Show (Telegraph-UK)
  • American in Iraq Beheaded on Web Video
    Nicholas Berg, of West Chester, Pa., 26, a businessman missing in Iraq since early April, was shown being decapitated by five masked Islamic militants in a video posted on the Internet on Tuesday. U.S. officials said Berg's body was found outside Baghdad over the weekend. The video attributed the crime to Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian accused of organizing attacks against occupation forces in Iraq. (Washington Post)
        After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed Berg to the floor and shouted "God is greatest" above his screams as one of them sawed his head off with a large knife. (Reuters)
        See also Berg Was in Iraq to Help
    Nick Berg taught villagers in Ghana how to make bricks, and helped people in Uganda chisel wells and bridges. As an independent businessman, Berg sought to climb metal towers in Iraq to rebuild communication antennas. "He was a technical wizard and humanitarian. He could have lived a comfortable life in Silicon Valley, but he was in Iraq helping people," said a close friend. Berg was Jewish, recalling the videotaped killing of Daniel Pearl, who also was Jewish, by Islamic militants in Pakistan in early 2002. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Syria
    President Bush slapped sanctions on Syria Tuesday for supporting terrorism and interfering with U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. The sanctions include banning U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine, prohibiting Syrian aircraft from flying to and from the U.S., and freezing certain Syrian assets. The practical effect of the new sanctions is mostly symbolic. Diplomatic relations will not be cut, no Syrian flights fly to the U.S., and Bush said he will waive the sanctions for products such as telecommunications equipment and aircraft parts. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), one of the sponsors of the sanctions law, said "it's only the beginning," adding that Syria will face even tougher sanctions if its behavior does not change. (Washington Post)
        See also Syria Not Worried Over U.S. Sanctions
    Syria is not due to suffer any consequences as a result of U.S. sanctions, Syrian Prime Minister Muhamed Naji Otari told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Forces Strike Mosque Held by Iraqi Cleric's Militia
    U.S. troops attacked the forces of Shiite cleric al-Sadr at the Mukhaiyam Mosque in the holy city of Karbala Tuesday. Soldiers stormed the mosque, chasing insurgents out, while behind the mosque a huge weapons cache was detonated. Before the attack, U.S. military officers had met with Karbala's leaders and believed they would support the operation because they want Sadr's Mahdi Army run out of town. Many Muslims disagree with his use of mosques as military bases. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Comrades in Arms: The Six Fallen Soldiers - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Victory for Hamas - Danny Rubinstein
    Displays of body parts are not unusual in the Palestinian street. Every time Israel killed a wanted man in Gaza with a missile, hundreds of young men would crowd around the ruined car, remove parts of the dead man's body, and display them to the crowd. The Palestinian media, and the Arab media in general, often show pictures of this nature.
        Hamas spokesmen said the most important thing for their movement is to present Sharon's disengagement plan as a defeat for the IDF, and Tuesday's attack contributed greatly to this goal. This is especially important in light of Hamas's failure to perpetrate revenge attacks following the deaths of its leaders, Yassin and Rantisi. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza Militants Vie for "Glory" of APC Attack - Arnon Regular
    It seemed like everyone in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City had a piece of metal they claimed came from the APC, or a piece of human remains they said belonged to the soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Shalom: Occupation Can't Explain Animal Behavior
    Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday, "Some people still say that Palestinians act in this brutal and animalistic way because they are under occupation, but let us not forget that the lynching of Jews and the brutality against Jews and the bodies of Jews has been going on for over one hundred years. We all remember the Arab uprising in 1929 and Gush Etzion [where scores of captured Jewish soldiers were murdered] and all the outrages throughout the years." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Bush Calls on Palestinians to Support Gaza Withdrawal
    President Bush sent a letter on Tuesday to Palestinian Prime Minister Qurei, asking him to support Prime Minister Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza. "If the plan is implemented, there is a real chance to move forward toward peace and toward the realization of Palestinian national aspirations," Bush said in the three-page letter. "The building of the institutions of a Palestinian state could then begin in earnest, in Gaza." According to Bush, "The United States will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations, including on the borders of a Palestinian state." (Maariv International)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Road for Damascus - Editorial
    American patience with Syria's Bashar al-Assad has run thin because of his tactical feints in helping the U.S. with post-invasion Iraq, promoting of various terror groups, and toying with weapons of mass destruction. Washington can't wait while Assad plays old games of conspiracy and half-steps. Assad is surrounded by old generals who thrive off the business they've long enjoyed in Lebanon by having 20,000 troops occupy that country. (Syria also allows Iran to use Syrian soil to support the anti-Israel Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.) The worst offense is Syria's unwillingness to prevent foreign fighters from entering Iraq across a 400-mile border. Bush has every reason to send Syria a stern signal of U.S. resolve. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Overdosing on Islam - Nicholas D. Kristof
    One of the central questions for the Middle East is whether Iran's hard-line Islamic regime will survive. I'm betting it won't. In much of the world, young Muslims are increasingly religious, but compulsive Islam has soured some Iranians on religion. Fewer people go to Friday prayers, and Western-style clothes are the hottest fashion. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Lessons for the Future (Ha'aretz)

    • A commander who has carried out numerous operations inside Gaza said Tuesday that "this was always one of our darkest nightmares. We were always worried that a demolition unit's APC, heavily laden with explosives, would drive over a mine, taking with it the entire crew."
    • Another question was whether it would have been possible to strike at the Palestinian weapons workshops from the air, thus eliminating the risk to ground forces.
    • The terrorists operate among the civilian population and with its support. The weapons workshops are located in residential neighborhoods, sometimes even within residents' homes. An air strike would likely endanger Palestinian civilians and lead to heavy criticism.
    See also Time for a Change in Tactics - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    • Because Israel sanctifies human life and goes out of its way to prevent innocent civilians from being harmed while waging a war against terror, it pays with the blood of its citizens.
    • Ground forces, and not air forces, were deployed to demolish the metalworks in Gaza City because of the risk of collateral damage in the populated Palestinian civilian areas where terrorists manufacture the Kassam rockets and mortar shells they use to attack Israel.
    • Maybe it's time to act like other armies and do what we have to do - and force the other side to pay the price. Maybe that is the only way to wipe terrorism off the map.

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